Memory is political. Refugee Nation is an artist intervention into the collective memory of Americans and Laotians about America's 13 year secret war in Laos.
During the month of April, four artists — Leilani Chan, Ova Saopeng, Mali Kounchao and Steve Arounsack — will be retracing, documenting and creating with the memories of the secret war. The artists will be traveling in Southern California and in Laos recording stories from the perspective of the refugees who fled to America and those who were turned away.
The artists will also be hosting community gatherings on Saturday afternoons at SPARC Gallery in Los Angeles, inviting members of the Laotian community to share their stories about the war. For those who can’t attend in person, the artists can be reached by email or phone (for details go here). Stories and images can also be contributed online by going to the artists myspace place – here.
The installation will involve workshops in performance, oral history interviewing, and mental health training; an interactive kiosk that will allow audiences to view oral histories and drawings, a timeline of the secret bombings with pictures, videos and narratives, and information about the Laotian Diaspora around the world; and an installation using family photographs and immigration portraits of Laotian refugees affected by the war. Stories will be woven into performances that incorporate poetry, song, dance, and martial arts into an examination of the complexities faced by Laotians who have fled to the United States in the wake of the Vietnam War.
The culminating public event will be Saturday, April 28th 7:00pm-10:00Pm. For more information about the exhibition go here.
America’s secret illegal war in Laos began in 1962 with the CIA training some 30,000 indigenous Hmong tribesmen to fight a civil war that threw the country into turmoil. Over 240,000 Laotians fled the country to the United States. Much about this war still remains hidden. For more info, wikipedia is probably as good a start as any.