Yellow Submarine Rising is an exhibition inspired by the #StopAsianHate movement and the resilience of the AAPI community. The reoccurring acts of anti-Asian hate in our country—from the xenophobic policies of the 1800s, to the unjust internment of Japanese Americans, to the unresolved murder of Vincent Chin, and to the alarming rise of violence since the pandemic targeting our most vulnerable—are affronts to our American ideals of equality, justice, diversity, and our Constitutional hope for “domestic tranquility.”
The submarine rising is a metaphor for our capacity to reform the tide of a hegemonic American consciousness. As fellow shipmates of diverse ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, if we mobilize in solidarity of heart and openness of mind, then together we can ascend above this crisis. Our sub is an empowered vehicle for change, no longer willing to run on silent. Emerging from the depths, it pushes against undercurrents of historical amnesia and racial discrimination. Its unbending hull resists the intense pressures of conformity and essentialized identities. Emptying its ballasts, it sheds the deadweight of fear, ignorance and generational trauma giving way for communal healing and buoyancy of spirit. Within its core, the multiplicity of our individual voices, our personal sense of belonging, and our most basic human rights are honored and protected. Breaking through the surface, our sub escapes cyclical forces of history. We take the helm, destined for a daring new course.
The selected works in this exhibition serve as contemplations and counterpoints to the Asian American experience. Each artist navigates their own unique currents of inspiration, perspective and visual style. Some works pay homage to cultural legacies by diving into a rich cache of materials, methods and subjectivities; others explore cultivations of belonging and fluidity of identity; some offer empowering commentary to our current realities; while others ground past narratives with a vision towards the future. Although this exhibition is organized into these subthemes, each work is multifaceted. Thematic crossovers are inevitable and interpretations beyond those presented here are invited. Welcome onboard.
Tiffany Le, the illustrator for Yellow Submarine Rising, reimagined the concept of the yellow submarine into the form of a carp in reference to a legend that existed before written history. It is a virtuous tale shared across many Asian cultures, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese. Legend has it that long ago, a special school of carp decided to swim up the challenging currents of the Yellow River but they were met with the formidable Longmen waterfall. For many years, the carp struggled to leap past the waterfall. Eventually, most gave up and returned downstream. However, a few held their course determined to continue their journey, despite the taunts from local demons who told them to give up the impossible task. But year by year, they grew stronger until one day, a very small number reached the top. In that moment, the gods who had been observing their plight since the beginning, rewarded these few carp by turning them into golden dragons. This legend is commonly retold to children to instill values of grit, of self confidence, of perseverance, and of fighting against the odds in order to reach your goals.