Berkeley Art Center is proud to present 'Virtually Asian,' a newly commissioned video essay by Thai American artist Astria Suparak. The piece examines how white science-fiction filmmakers fill the backgrounds of their futuristic worlds with hollow Asian figures — in the form of video and holographic advertisements — while the main cast (if not the entirety of their fictional universe’s population) is devoid of actual Asian people.
With examples from major sci-fi productions spanning four decades, the video reveals this trope as a poor attempt to mask white supremacist imagination and casting. This well-trodden shortcut is meant to create the appearance of a diverse world without hiring non-white people in any significant capacity (in front of or behind the camera).
Set to a soundtrack by Vietnamese French beatmaker Onra, which deftly blends traditional and pop Chinese music from the 1960s with hip-hop, 'Virtually Asian' is part of Suparak’s ongoing research project, 'Asian futures, without Asians.'
Astria Suparak is an artist and curator based in Oakland. Her cross-disciplinary practice often addresses urgent political issues and has taken the form of new tools and publicly accessible databases of subcultures and misunderstood histories. Her current research includes linguistics, diasporas, food histories, and sci-fi.
Suparak’s creative and collaborative projects have been exhibited and performed at Artists Space (New York), ICA London, SFMOMA, Tensta Konsthall (Stockholm), Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), and the Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh), and published in LTTR and Graffiti Women: Street Art from Five Continents. Her writing has appeared in The Getty blog, Art21 Magazine, VICE Magazine’s Noisey, Boing Boing, The Exhibitionist, "Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community," and "The Museum Is Not Enough."