Interview by: Rehana Paul
Minyoung Huh is a high school student who runs the Instagram account @cool.kid.coven, which gives a platform to young POC artists.
- What inspired you to start this account?
I’ve always been attracted to the arts, as it is one of the most authentic expressions of feelings and experiences. Speaking as a Person of Color can be very difficult as our voices are hardly listened to in the world. Our experiences and emotions are so often suppressed for this reason, but we have the right to show our pain and be listened to. I think that’s why I started this account. Our experiences of hurt, diaspora, and just existing against a world that has built its foundations on White supremacy has shaped a culture of strength and resilience… There is so much beauty in our existence. But these spaces where we can express ourselves, without the existence of a ‘White gaze,’ are so limited and practically non-existent.
- What is the best comment you have ever gotten?
To be honest, I haven’t gotten many comments (laughs). However, something that has really made me happy that I made this account was seeing POC feel pride in being represented and heard. I was talking to one of the artists who submitted art in our second issue, and she talked about how simply publishing a piece in a zine made her feel as if she was present as an artist: that her art mattered.Although we are not a popular or well-known zine, the action of being reached out to, being told that your art is amazing and something that deserves to be shown to the world is encouraging for artists. We are so often told our voices don’t matter, and as our art is a reflection of our voices, there is just so much doubt that artists of Color feel about their work. This zine is just trying to take a first step in supplying self-love and pride in living life as an artist of color. And I was happy someone felt that love and pride everyone deserves to have about their art.
- How do you think we can dismantle the cultural stigma against art and artists in the Asian community? Asian art is appreciated in its aesthetics, but it’s not valued in its deeper cultural value.One of the most demeaning things that I have been told by White peers is that Asians are incapable of unique thought and creativity– that we are superficial and only care about outer appearances, with no intellectual substance. This is apart of a bigger issue of how creativity and independent thought is something that is perceived to be a “White trait.” You see this in the ways children of Color are told that they are ‘not typical’ of their race when they spark philosophical conversations. Being told that ‘You are more like us White people’ for expressing thought isn’t a compliment. I am Asian, and to suggest that my ‘Asianness’ is an antithesis to expression and emotion is dehumanizing. It’s dehumanizing the way White supremacy perceives Asians. White society thinks Asians do not care. We care, but we have been told that our opinions do not matter, so some of us have conditioned ourselves to not freely express them. White society has made it so it is unsafe for Asians to care. People look at Asians and think of some monolithic being that is emotionless, hard-working, and apathetic: but that is simply not the case. We are complex, we are individuals, and we are human. The cultural stigma against Asian art is the reflection of the stigma against Asians: that our art doesn’t MEAN anything. That our art is unable to portray the complexities of human experience that Western art does. This is just not true. In my opinion, dismantling this idea has no concrete answer or process. I think there are actions we can take to fight the stigma, such as creating our own spaces for ourselves, but to dismantle it would mean dismantling ideas of White supremacy that are so deeply rooted in the world. I am not saying it’s not possible, but its just there is no 10-step program to get rid of it. As generation z, as millennials, as the youth of the world, we lie at the intersection of our past’s pain, and the current injustices that continue to abuse and devalue our bodies. We have to work with loving each other and focusing on healing, while also looking at the very things that hurt us straight in the eye and fighting them. And those two things can sometimes contradict each other… that’s what makes the process so hard. I think this zine tries to do what it can by giving space to Asian voices, but there is still such a long way to go.
- What is the worst comment you have ever gotten?
What hurts the most is when people from your own community criticize what you are doing. I have been told that things I do don’t matter and that I am overreacting. I don’t mind when this comes from White peers, but it hurts so much when it’s from my Asian community. Although I do get a lot of support, sometimes there are people who don’t see a value in activism or are used to the status quo and power imbalances we currently have… Certain prejudices have been apart of a person’s social conditioning, and I am not unaffected by this either. But this is why it’s important to deconstruct the current issues we have of inequality. Those who deny that racism exists even though they are POC still hurt in the same ways that every one of Color is hurt by racism. There is an idea that change only makes things worse, but this is a narrative to keep people who are in power, in power. To demand rights for yourself is seen as somewhat of a selfish act. Speaking out is making noise– ‘the nail that juts out will get hammered down’ type of idea. And these are the result of years of injustices and no change. Speaking out has not been effective before so why would it be now? These type of comments just get me down in the way it reflects a hopeless situation that lies in truth. It’s not wrong, and I often find myself wondering about the meaning of anything I do as a result. But the love and support I have found in communities of Color always make me motivated to create spaces for that kind of care we give to each other. Being in a position to speak out is a privilege, and I want to use my privilege to contribute to something that will make things in the future at least more hopeful.
- Do you think there is a larger stigma against female than male artists in the Asian community?
I don’t know nearly as many female Asian artists as I do male. I think this reflects the attitude the world has taken on towards Asian women. The overlap of identities from being women or femme and as a person who has historically and is presently marginalized due to race in many parts of the world, Asian women and Asian femmes have trouble escaping some sense of stigma anywhere in the world. We just are not being represented as much as Asian men are.
- Who do you think is one of the best up and coming female Asian artists?
Someone I’ve been looking at a lot, in particular, is Lenore Chinn. Her paintings representing queer POC are amazing.
- What do you think can be done to remedy the lack of Asian representation in the arts?
Ithink it is clear that we, as Asians, have to take the representation issue in our own hands. White society does not see the meaning in our beings and have taken our roles, our stories, and our art to replace it with a whitewashed version. We have to fight our own ways into being represented. Being there for each other, supporting each other every step of the way, is so important. We have to create our own spaces for ourselves if no one else will.
- What are your goals with this account?
As I said before, I really hope to achieve a place where people can express any art they want and feel valued.
- Who is your favorite artist from your home country?
Lee Bul has some really amazing works, as does Xooang Choi.
- What do you think the biggest problem facing Asian women today is?
I think it’s really hard to narrow it down, as there is a multitude of problems from violence that is perpetrated based on the ideas of a ‘submissive’ Asian women character, to the fact that we are constantly infantilized, which therefore puts us in a situation of being least likely to achieve leadership positions in workspaces … I think it is just important to not lose faith in one another in the face of adversity and just try to uplift each other constantly. There is no need to put yourself down for others or put others down for yourself. We have to be there for each other.
Looking forward: Minyoung wants to continue to cultivate her skills as an artist while advocating for diversity in the arts.