Passport Office and Series
Race is a complicated construct as it is. Combine that with gender identity and sexuality, immigration status and other categories, one can be left entangled by labels and expectations, subjected to many forms of discrimination, struggling to be whole.
In my own attempts at connecting to different parts of me, I have documented many communities’ fights for civil and human rights, for social justice. In the past three years, I have collaborated with transgender people in various ways. Transgender, gender queer or gender variant people are individuals who cannot or choose not to conform to societal gender norms based upon their physical or birth sex. Some undertake medical or surgical procedures to embody their gender identity. For others, their gender expression primarily involves a social change (e.g. name, visual presentation).
My work with trans folks has been especially powerful because they embody this struggle and resistance to be pigeonholed. Every day, transgender people are forced to choose male or female. They must always consider the possibility of harassment, discrimination and violence when doing the most basic things, whether it’s going to the restroom or filling out an application.
For the first phase of this series, I worked with transgender people of color whom I knew to create “passports.” I reframed typical application questions and invited them to provide answers, not by checking a box, but by using their own words to describe the most important parts of themselves. The response to the Passports and the Wing Luke Museum was incredibly powerful; it sparked so much discussion and connection that I expanded the project to include all people who struggle with various identity categories, who face discrimination or disenfranchisement because of the box they check or don’t check on applications.
With support from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, I installed a temporary “Passport Office” at the Rainier Beach Art Walk, located in the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the state (some say the country). Again, the response was beyond all of my expectations. Check out one participant’s response in the Seattle Globalist.
Passport Office and Series continue as I work with communities who fight for civil and human rights. Together, we express our shared hope for the time when we are not limited and fragmented by categories, when can all be free to be our whole selves.
Passport Series exhibitions
Paul Schell Gallery, Mayor’s Office at City Hall, Seattle, November 2014 – February, 2015
Center for Art + Thought‘s Hidden, international on-line exhibition M Rosetta Hunter Art Gallery, Seattle, May, 2014
IDEA Odyssey Collective‘s IDxID: New Identities, curated by C. Davida Ingram at the Washington State Convention Center’s North Galleries (2nd floor), Seattle, January – April, 2014.
Wing Luke Museum‘s Under My Skin: Artists Explore Race in the 21st Century exhibition, 2013
To make a financial donation to help grow the Passport Series, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This project is made possible with funding from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and contributions from Frame Destinations, the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and generous individuals.