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CONTACT: Leslie Unger, JANM, email@example.com or 213.830.5690
Visual Communications, 213.680.4462
LOS ANGELES – At First Light: The Dawning of Asian Pacific America, a multi-media exhibition that explores and celebrates the emergence of a politically defined Asian Pacific American consciousness and identity, will open at the Japanese American National Museum on May 25 and remain on view through October 20, 2019. The exhibition is a co-production of JANM and Visual Communications (VC), the first Asian Pacific American media organization in the country, which formed in Los Angeles in 1970 to capture and cultivate the newfound unity that was Asian Pacific America.
At First Light chronicles the transformation of the un-American categorization of “Oriental” to the political identity of “Asian Pacific American” that rejected racist stereotypes, stood up for human rights, recovered lost histories, and created new cultural expressions. The exhibition draws from hundreds of thousands of photographs and more than 100 videos in VC’s collections. In the present-day climate of xenophobia and racial profiling, At First Light seeks to strengthen current resistance and resolve by evoking the legacy of Asian Pacific American activism.
Rooted in the documentary tradition and recording the flash points of social justice as they unfolded, the activists of VC were a constant presence, with cameras in hand, at both demonstrations and cultural celebrations. The newfound consciousness and activism they witnessed and encouraged led to a political awakening that overhauled how Asians in the United States were viewed—and, more importantly, how they viewed themselves.
Highlights of At First Light include:
Video Stories from the VC Archives: Thirty short videos tell the stories of places, like Historic Manilatown, or events, such as the first Asian American march against the Vietnam War, as documented in the VC Archives with new commentary by people who appear in these now historical images.
America’s Concentration Camps: The oldest and largest artifact in the exhibition and VC’s first production is a free-standing cube sculpture displaying what were then never-before-seen photographs of life in America’s World War II concentration camps for Japanese Americans. It was created in 1970 for the campaign to repeal the Emergency Detention Act of 1950.
FSN 1972: This contemporary video installation by award-winning filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura repurposes historical VC images and sounds. Vintage motion picture footage is embedded into the windows and doorways of a large-scale projection of a 1972 graphic drawing of First Street North (or FSN as it now often called), the historic heart of Little Tokyo for more than 100 years. The installation embodies the current effort to preserve spaces of memory and meaning to ensure historical and cultural continuity into the future.
Combining cutting-edge with old-school technologies, At First Light provides points of reflection as well as contemporary connections for a new multi-generational and diverse audience. The resiliency and resistance embodied in the exhibition serve as a reminder—as well as a call to action—of what can be accomplished when people unite as a community with commitment.
For more information about At First Light and related programming, visit janm.org/at-first-light.
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About Visual Communications
Visual Communications’ mission is to develop and support the voices of Asian American and Pacific Islander filmmakers and media artists who empower communities and challenge perspectives. Founded in 1970 with the understanding that media and the arts are powerful forms of storytelling, Visual Communications creates cross cultural connections between peoples and generations. The organization turns 50 in 2020. Learn more at vcmedia.org.
About the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), a Smithsonian Affiliate
Established in 1985, the Japanese American National Museum promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM is a hybrid institution that straddles traditional museum categories and strives to provide a voice for Japanese Americans as well as a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public, JANM has presented nearly 100 exhibitions onsite and traveled 20 of its exhibitions to locations around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Ellis Island Museum in the United States, and several leading cultural museums in Japan and South America.