Imaginary Chinatowns

My current project is a manuscript of erasure and found poetry, drawn from archival sources documenting the Anti-Chinese Riots of 1880 in Denver, which contributed to the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.

I’m putting this together with my creative partner, Kyle Albasi. We’ll be presenting a walking tour performance of this piece at the Denver Fringe Festival, using AI-generated images of a Chinatown that might exist in Denver had the race riot not happened, positioned over existing buildings with augmented reality (webAR).

Our artwork is also on exhibit at the AAPI Culture Festival in Denver this May. Here are a few pieces at the exhibit, scraps from our manuscript:

Wazee as it never was Generative AI image of Chinatown overlaying Google Maps image of Denver

What is a good use of generative AI for art or pedagogy? Here is a collage of an AI-generated image of Chinatown overlaying a Google Maps image of Wazee Street in Denver, alongside Colorado historic newspapers clippings, documenting where the largest Chinatown of the Rocky Mountain West once existed, but was erased by racist violence, and imagining the Chinatown that could have been.

Generative AI image of Chinatown overlaying Google Maps image of Denver
Printed on Canvas for the AAPI Culture Festival on May 11, 2024 at the McNichols Civic Center Building on Colfax.

Look Young Died Here – CAPU Plaque CAPU Plaque

Correction of a plaque in Denver, which mischaracterized the Denver anti-Chinese riots of 1880, and was taken down in 2022 through to the community advocacy of CAPU (Colorado Asian Pacific United). Look Young 陆扬 was a 28-year-old laundry worker who was brutalized, lynched and murdered during the riot. His name was mis-recorded in many historic documents as "Sing Lee".

Look Young Died Here – the Coroner’s Report Erasure poetry

Erasure poetry based on the Coroner's Report for Look Young, mis-recorded as "Sing Lee", which was the name of the laundromat where he worked, on 19th and Lawrence, ransacked by a mob of Denver residents during the race riot on October 31, 1880. The mob numbered around 4000 people, about a fifth of the population of Denver at that time.

I’ll include more artwork and photos from the Fringe Festival after completing my manuscript for the Lighthouse Writers Poetry Collective, a year-long writing residency in Denver. Presenting this work-in-progress at the Lit Fest on June 12, 2024.