A conversation between Sophia Remolde and AE on identity, community, art, empathy and learning to exist between and beyond binaries. Part two is centered around process and transcendence. Read part one here.
AE: I would love to hear more about your path as an artist. What are some of the struggles you’ve faced as an Asian American artist?
Sophia: After receiving a college education in psychology, I moved to New York City and began acting. While I did a lot of fun and interesting work, I never quite felt like most projects represented the world with the magic and wonder I have always experienced (though there were a few). In terms of being Asian American, there were very few satisfying roles in theater. Slowly, this is beginning to change. I found more in film, but the kind of roles I was cast in were stereotypes of Asian Americans. They were comedic, exotic, or surreal.
That said, the biggest struggle I faced as an Asian American artist was that I wasn’t necessarily seen as one. Therefore, I set out to make my own work that I felt like represented my experience.
The best example of this was my MFA thesis, Robot Immigrants. My two collaborators on the project, Daniel Munkus and Tinuade Oyelowo, were also artists with one immigrant parent. We used our bodies as the canvases to reveal our parents’ immigration stories and multimedia installations built into the space to create a series of “exhibits” that the audience moved through. Finally, the audience would go through a “virtual customs” procedure, have their images scanned and projected into a space where I was flying a quadrotor in a Singularity-inspired realm, creating a metaphor of robots as the new immigrants. This seemingly disjointed experience made perfect sense, in that everything makes very little sense at all.
As an ethnically unidentified artist, I made the kind of hybrid multimedia work that spoke to my experience without there necessarily being a place for it. Like my being, the work resists categorization. This was hard, but ultimately this kind of work helped me and others reach a shared understanding that transcends race and various other labels.