Salvage Acts: Asian/American Artists and the Uncovering of Slow Violence in the San Francisco Bay Area
Keywords:Visual studies, critical geography, American studies, urban studies, Asian American art, Black geography, waste, recycling, Callifornia, slow violence
This essay excavates geographies of environmental injustice and racial violence in San Francisco, California using the artwork of Asian/American artists Weston Teruya, Michael Arcega, and Stephanie Syjuco made during their residencies at Recology (the city’s privately-owned waste management facility). At Recology’s Artist-In-Residence program, cultural workers salvage materials from the dump, transforming the city’s waste into objects with educational and artistic value. Reading the visual lexicon deployed in, and the conditions of production and circulation of, these assemblages, I trace the wastelanding of communities of color across the Northern California region through processes of incarceration, toxic exposure, displacement, and labor exploitation. These artworks, I argue, assist in uncovering the terrain of slow violence in the region and across scales, or what Rob Nixon has called “landscapes of temporal overspill that elude rhetorical cleanup operations with their sanitary beginnings and endings” (2011, 8).
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