Graduate Program Assistant, @community_arts_mfa
Communications & Development Manager, WombWork Productions, Inc.
Columnist, Inkstick Media
Artist website: www.qqiu-qqiu.art
Where were you, geographically, creatively, and/or professionally, before attending MICA?
Right before MICA, I had been spending my summer in New York City working on promoting more widespread discussions about the intersections of art, nuclear weapons, and political events broadly. Most notably, I had been partnering with the Noguchi Museum to make a brief exhibitions documentary alongside some fellow Asian creatives in the city for their special exhibition Memorial to the Atomic Dead.
Unfortunately, our video project ran into a few too many complications, but I was still able to take all the knowledge gained from the experience and publish it as an article with The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
Why did you select this particular program?
If not for the Community Arts MFA at MICA, I may never have agreed to attend art school in the first place. My biggest hesitation to trying for an MFA, aside from the fact that I’ve never been formally trained in art and got my Bachelors in chemistry, was an impression that MFA programs would be stuffy and elitist.
I was uninterested in art classrooms that prized aesthetics above all else, even above human well-being and the politics involved in collective well-being. The MFA in Community Arts program, however, exists for the exact purpose of addressing those concerns I have. That’s not to say our program ignores or even rejects aesthetics; rather, we actively choose to consider the aesthetics alongside the political implications and backgrounds to the choices we all make with a shared goal of increased community uplift.
What have you learned from living in Baltimore? How has your perception of the city changed – from before MICA until now?
I hadn’t known anyone or anything about Baltimore prior to coming to MICA. I hadn’t seen The Wire so didn’t even have a Hollywood version of the city’s story in my head prior to coming. I had, however, of course heard the usual lay-person review of “Isn’t that city really dangerous?” This feedback had never really deterred me from coming to MICA though because I heard the same remarks all throughout undergrad about Houston’s 5th Ward–a predominantly Black and underserved neighborhood.
I expected, at minimum, neutral experiences in Baltimore. But thanks to the unique positioning of being in the Community Arts program, I’ve been privileged to witness extreme moments of beauty, community care, and solidarity across multiple neighborhoods. Yes, perhaps the city has faced some extreme levels of hardship and violence. But despite the difficulties, Baltimore has germinated a community culture so rich, so inspiring, and so heartwarming that I feel only the collective strength and joy for its residents when I think about my time here.
Tell us about your work. What are your primary materials? What are the main concepts you explore in the work? How do your materials and concepts intersect?
Before coming to MICA, I’d consider myself primarily an illustrator-type of art maker, and a hobbyist level at that! Since being here, I’ve done my best to find time for as much exploration into new mediums and practices as possible. I’ve still a lot left to learn.
Conceptually, I’d say my practice hinges on two key beliefs: That everything is political and that the only story one can individually, validly tell is their own. Both my art making and nuclear policy work thrive on finding and assessing the invisible threads connecting everything: the pseudo-vulnerability popular in online content from Gen Z and Gen Alpha with society’s ability (or inability) to critically consume news or understand complex international affairs, Olivia Rodrigo’s teenage break up album Sour with cultural identity and the politics of race and gender, and always, always, always more.
What is the title of your thesis show? Please give us a sense of depth and breadth of the show, where it is, and how you want it to resonate with viewers?
The title of my thesis show is Ideological State Apparatus. I found the term from Kathy Park Hong’s book Minor Feelings in which she mentions a 1990 journal article about Japanese Mothers and the O-bento as a mechanism for cultural and ideological control–an ideological state apparatus. The term struck a chord with me as I had lately been feeling like much of my existence to the general public was as an ideological state apparatus.
I felt as if I was something, rather than someone, that strangers could hold up high as an example for promoting their own narratives. That Chinese people are brainwashed if I expressed even just marginal support for the country of my birth. That the Chinese government is fabricating their population’s overall support for the government regime if I expressed even just marginal critiques of the system. That I was a poor, pitiable baby girl saved by the modernized, white Westerners by being internationally adopted. So, over the last year or so, I’ve sought out to construct my thesis show such that I can be the bard screaming, sobbing, throwing up / laughing, skipping, and hugging through my own epic. My and my cohort’s main thesis show was on exhibit at the Enoch Pratt Central Branch from May 8 to June 30, 2023.
What are your post-graduation plans?
Despite my deep affection for Baltimore, I plan to move to Philadelphia to move in with my best friend from undergrad. I’ll be keeping my current full-time appointment with the social justice, performing arts non-profit WombWork Productions with a focus on grant writing, social media, and website development. I’ll certainly be back to visit Baltimore quite often, however, to stay connected with the community I’ve built thus far in this city. In Philadelphia though, I also hope to further a new potential community partnership that focuses on transracial adoptee experiences.