Placemat - Where is Sam Wo?
Artist(s)/Author(s): Midori
Format: Archive Item, Paper Document(s)
Keywords: Midori
Reference Number: FF.35301.MI
Location: Flat Files
Acquisition Date: 7/21/2023
Donated By: midori

Artists thoughts taken from Midori's website about the work.

I love Kung Fu and Samurai movies. But when the white saviors defeat the nefarious Chinese restaurant opium dens or learn from the wise sushi-chef-cum-ninja-master, accompanied by the Asian femme hottie, I’m uneasy. I want to challenge these tired tropes with a big, pink, velvety gun. Today, in full campy glory, I – we – can be heroes. 

In 1979, when I emigrated from Japan to rural Washington, the only place to find Asian food was the Golden Wheel Buffet. Of course, it wasn’t truly Chinese cuisine, with its thickly breaded sweet-and-sour pupu platters. But it was the only place that had anything resembling soy sauce. I remember the placemats explaining “the Oriental zodiac.’’ To find any taste of home, I had to accept the strange, exoticized version of who others thought I was.

Over the years, conversation with other Asians often turns to our latest encounter with microaggressions, the dumb things people say. We put up with it, sometimes internalizing the stereotypes, disempowering ourselves. We tell ourselves that it’ll get better, if only we excel and become more ‘American.’ Families and communities tell us, “don’t rock the boat.”

Power is always on my mind. I navigate the world conscious of contextual interpersonal dynamics, deploying tactics of power and agency. Even femme aesthetics, like manicured nails, can be weaponized. This is my daily reality as an Asian American Queer Femme immigrant. 

There’ve always been discriminatory laws and violence against American Asians. In my piece, I list just a few of these laws. The climate has worsened recently, but we’re no longer the quiet, model citizens we were. While I appreciate the sentiment of the hashtag #StopAsianHate, this still feels like respectability politics. It’s time for another, wider mindset. It’s time we own our fierceness and power. 

-K.T. 9/21/23

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