Learn about one of our 2019 VC Summer Interns, Rino Kodama, the LACAC Archives Program Intern.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Rino Kodama! (they/them) This fall quarter I’ll be a senior at UCLA, majoring in Art and minoring in Asian American Studies. It brings me so much joy to collaborate creatively--for me that takes shape through dancing in Taste the Rainbow, a queer dance team, or making costumes for my friend’s punk band called Mirrored Fatality, all of which are practices that continue to ground me in community building and healing. As for post grad, I don’t have a clear vision. I often dream about making/living a QTPOC house, or a free art making+sharing space turned queer club at night.
How did you hear about VC and what drew you to apply?
I found VC through the Getty Multicultural Internship list last summer, and was immediately interested in the Archives position since. I felt like the space would allow me to touch base on both of my interests in art and Asian American studies--and it does! I was also introduced to it through Tad Nakamura, my Ethnocommunications professor, and the history of VC coming together during the 1970’s was exciting to me. The existence of an archive, a trove of images made by, for, and of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is so special and I was eager to delve into the stories told through these images.
What do you do at VC? Which part do you find most interesting?
I am currently the Archives Program Associate, which means I spend most of my time in the cool archives room, digitizing old negatives and color slides. I love that I get to handle these materials and also see images of events and people I’ve learned about in class. Imagining a digital archive that is accessible someday is a goal worth sifting through thousands of images. I’m also constantly thinking about how our memory works. Who and what gets to be remembered for future generations? Every time I go through a tagging session with my supervisor Abe to assign key words to photos, it’s like I’m receiving a history lesson and I love it!
What is your favorite thing about working here? Any memorable moments?
My favorite thing about working at VC is the collaboration that goes on within our intern team. We all have such different backgrounds and connections to digital media, but it’s so satisfying when we’re able to bounce ideas off each other and have the creative freedom to curate our intern program together. Shoop (Sarah Rozario) and I are collaborating on an animation to highlight our “At First Site” event on August 15th. I tend to not work digitally, and at school my art making is mainly solo, so it’s exciting to see our different strengths come together.
What’s your go-to karaoke song and why?
My Experience at the At First Light Exhibit at JANM
By Rino Kodama
Walking into the Japanese American National Museum, I was eager to see the At First Light exhibit--I had been meaning to go before my internship started but I was grateful to experience the show with a guided tour from Abe, my supervisor and longtime Visual Communications Archivist. He began the tour with the FSN 1972 projection installation by Tad Nakamura, which utilizes a drawing of 1st Street North from 1972, combined with sounds and images found in the VC archives. It’s always cool to see work made by professors I’ve had in public, and I enjoyed seeing a digital collage come to life through moving images and sounds.
Abe then led us through to the America’s Concentration Camps exhibit, a cube sculpture with photographs from World War II when Japanese Americans were forced into concentration camps. Originally created in 1970 in response to the Emergency Detention Act of 1950, the cube sculpture is one of the oldest artifacts in the VC Archives.
Earlier this spring, I went on the Manzanar pilgrimage for the first time, and have been thinking about how the words “America’s Concentration Camps” still ring relevant today. The tactics used to scapegoat and vilify Japanese Americans manifest in the ways families are currently being detained at the border, or how Muslim folks are subject to islamophobic surveillance and violence. I think it slips from our collective memory that “mass incarceration”, “concentration camps”, and “detention centers” are “different” yet all have the same purpose: to continue the violent cycle of excluding Black and Brown people from partaking in society.
I hope this exhibit serves as an urgent reminder that we must center the needs of the most vulnerable, and how incarceration deeply impacts communities for generations.
After the exhibit walk-through, there was a Fort Sill Protest right outside of JANM. People gathered to protest the plans for detaining children in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, historically a detention center for Japanese Americans as well as Native Americans. The culmination of both the exhibit and protest felt overwhelming as I was reminded of the work people have done in the past, and the work that must continue for the liberation of all people. To stay involved with what future actions will be made, I suggest following Nikkei Progressives.
For some parts of the tour, I wandered off to get a closer look at all the photographs that line the walls. While looking at pictures from Little Tokyo in the 1970’s, I reflected on how many of the issues people faced back then are still here in the form of new developments and gentrification. The residents of Little Tokyo have gone through various waves of displacement, during World War II, and then later on through evictions and developments that pushed businesses and residents out. I felt grounded in Little Tokyo’s history as I walked through the exhibit and wondered about how what future of First Street North will look like. If you are interested in learning more about how arts activists today are utilizing their creative skills to build and care for community, come out to our program on August 15th! We will be screening one of the films from the At First Light exhibit to show the ongoing history of activism in Little Tokyo.
At First Light is open until October 20th, and I highly recommend checking it out. It’s a wonderful space to learn about the legacy of VC, all the projects they have done over the years, as well as the history of Little Tokyo.