"Who Do We Make It For?” Reflections on Environmental Justice, Public Art, and Chinatown Resident Narratives. 標題:“我們為誰而創作?”在環境正義、公共藝術和華埠居民敘事上的沉思

photo by Nohemi Rodriguez

Washing (洗作) is a public art project created by a team including myself and four collaborators: Maggie Chen, Charlene Huang, Chu Huang, and Dianyvet Serrano. Washing weaves together oral histories, iPhone videos, sound recordings, and performance art in response to the legacies of the I-90 and I-93 highways built through Boston’s Chinatown. This past May, Washing culminated in a large-scale video projection at a parking lot, activating the walls of the last parcel of public land in Chinatown to tell a story of displacement, environmental justice, and our collective capacity to create a better future.

洗作是一個由我和其他四個合作者在內的隊伍創造的公共藝術項目,四位合作者包括:Maggie Chen、Charlene Huang、Chu Huang和Dianyvet Serrano。洗作是一份由口頭歷史、iPhone視頻、錄音和行為藝術編制成對橫跨波士頓華埠的I-90和I-93高速公路建立遺留歷史的回應。在剛剛過去的五月裡,洗作在一個停車場內以投影一系列影片進行了收尾,在激活華埠最後一個公共地區的墻面時敘述了一個有關逼遷、環境正義和我們為了創造一個更好的未來而有力團結起來的故事。

Washing was co-created over a five-month period in early 2021 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. During one of our first working sessions as a group, we asked ourselves - given all that is going on in our community, “What would a positive impact look like, sound like, and feel like…”, for an art project about air pollution and the highways? Our initial ideas included policymakers, developers, and planners as a core audience group. As a team, we wondered, “…could Washing hold up a mirror to the industries that historically have shaped Chinatown’s land and environment--often at the expense of working class residents”? One member of our team put it plainly: “They need to hear the consequences of their actions.”

洗作是我們在新冠疫情高峰的2021年早期共同創作的,歷時五個月。在我們第一個團體工作會議上,我們問自己 - 在我們社區所經歷的所有事情下 - 對一個關於空氣污染和高速公路的藝術項目來說,“正面影響看起來、聽起來、感覺起來應該是什麼樣的?”在我們原本的計劃裡,中心觀眾包括了制定政策者、發展商和計劃者。作為一個隊伍,我們思考了“洗作可不可以反映出歷史上通常以工人階層居民為代價來塑造華埠的土地和環境的行業們”?我們其中一位成員簡潔地概括:“他們需要聽清他們的行動所造成的的後果。”

At the same time, we also wanted Washing to speak to Chinatown residents, who live and breathe the impact of these highways. The I-93 and I-90 highways box in the neighborhood on its western and southern borders. They hold a constant embodied presence through its rumbling vibrations, plumes of exhaust, and loud sounds at all times of day. Although residents experience its effects every day, the highways’ origin story and impact on the neighborhood is not always clear. Could Washing share stories that help residents understand why their neighborhood looks the way it does? And, in doing so, recognize their role as part of a broader community that wields collective influence and power? 

與此同時,我們也想通過洗作與華埠居民 - 居住在和呼吸著高速公路的影響的人們 - 溝通。I-93和I-90公路建立在社區的西部和南部邊界上。它們的存在無時無刻地體現在轟轟隆隆的震動、不斷排放的廢氣和全天24小時的噪音上。雖然居民們每一天都被他們影響,這些公路的來源和對社區的影響卻並不明確。洗作可以讓居民們更深入了解為什麼他們的社區是現在這個樣子的嗎?與此同時,可以讓他們更多認識自己作為擁有團結影響和力量的社區一份子的這個角色嗎?

Grappling with how to address these two audience groups, I felt the tension. Although they weren’t necessarily in opposition with one another, holding the two together asked us to consider what types of stories and aesthetics we should prioritize for Washing. How do different stories resonate with different people? When we evoke visual symbols and shorthands, whose tastes, memories, and sensibilities are we playing into? Within our methods of storytelling, how legible (or illegible) will we be? I name all of these questions to say - who is all this really for?

在確定這兩組觀眾後,我感到了拉扯。雖然他們不一定站在對立面,但這兩組人同時作為觀眾意味著我們必須考慮我們應該要優先選擇什麼類型的故事和美學藝術。不同的故事會對不同的觀眾引起怎樣的共鳴?當我們喚起視覺符號和速寫,我們是在連接誰 的品味、記憶和感性?在使用我們自己的敘述方式時,我們可以有多清晰明了(或者不清晰明了)?我將這所有的疑問歸結為一個問題 - 我們在為誰創作?

In a parking lot, folks watch a projection in blue chairs that are evenly spaced apart.

As artists working within the spatial justice ecosystem, we have an opportunity to reimagine public space through our work, and these questions around audience and intention texture the imaginations we enter. As a team, we grappled with these questions again and again throughout our time creating this piece. There was an added layer of complexity for me, as someone facilitating a group of Chinatown residents, despite not living in Chinatown. I had to consider what my creative choices would mean to residents and what they said about the residents. It was important to move slowly, and to know when to step back and center  the creative decisions of my team. “I think this one clip of the highway feels a bit obvious, or boring,” I shared during one video co-editing session. “We all know what a highway looks like.” But one of my teammates chimed in to correct me - “I see this highway every day,” she said, “but, I never really look at it. So, paying attention to it in this way is personal for me, and it’s not boring.”


In the middle of our five-month creation process, we held a listening session for members of the Chinatown community to hear and discuss what we had created so far. I was moved by how many people recognized themselves in the stories we had gathered, and in turn shared their own stories and insights to the group. It was a moment of closeness and shared recognition - I see you, and I feel seen. Afterwards, we debriefed as a group. “Are we on the right track?,” I asked. For our team, the answer was yes.

在我們為時五個月的創作週期中,我們舉辦了一個由華埠社區成員參加的聆聽會,讓他們了解和討論我們到當時為止的創作進度。當看到他們在我們收集的故事裡看見自己,並反過來和我們分享他們自己的故事和想法的時候,我非常地感動。那是一個親近和共通認同的瞬間 - 我看見了你並且我感到被看見。在這之後,我們隊內進行了一次匯報。“我們走在正確的途中了嗎?”對我們來說,答案是肯定的。

In a parking lot at night, a couple stands under an unbrella and watches projections on the side of a building.

In the end, from the language we used to describe our work, to the shapes, stories, and sounds we employed, to the spaces we occupied - we designed for the residents. The most powerful moments in the piece echoed back residents’ own experiences, without the urge to explain their humanity to industries that have historically denied their dignity. For a few nights, we bore witness to the stories of a neighborhood, shining on its own walls - a reminder of public space’s potential to affirm us.

最終來說,從我們用來介紹作品的語言,到我們採用的形狀、故事和聲音,再到我們佔用了的空間 - 都是為了居民們而設計的。作品中最有力的瞬間響應了居民們自身的經歷,並且不過分強調對歷史上否定了居民們的尊嚴的行業去表達居民們的人性。在這幾個夜晚裡,我們見證了這個社區的故事,在它自己的圍墻上閃耀 - 提醒著我們公共空間有肯定我們的潛力。

Image Credits: 圖片版權:

All photos are taken by Nohemi Rodriguez.

所有照片由Nohemi Rodriguez拍攝.

Stay Connected

Receive the latest news, grant offerings, and community events.

Sign up