Migration: the physical movement from one place to another, sometimes over long distances, singularly or in large groups usually due to hardships-- famine, persecution, war or economic necessity. Rarely does one want to leave family, friends or homeland for the unknown and oftentimes perilous new beginnings.
Nearly two centuries ago Chinese immigrants came to America drawn to the California Gold Rush. Gold Mountain was initially named for California and in particular San Francisco where the immigrants disembarked, bound for the gold fields. These immigrants labored under extraordinarily harsh conditions, faced terrible discrimination, and many were murdered. From 1910 to 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Center of San Francisco served as the processing center for most Chinese immigrants. Some were detained for many years living under near barbaric conditions.
In 1882, the U.S. government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, one of the most egregious impediments to free immigration in U.S. history. This was replaced in 1943 by the Magnuson Act, which permitted Chinese nationals already living in the U.S. to become naturalized citizens. It was a political move due to China and America’s allegiance in WWII. Although a positive development, it was a strict quota of 105 new Chinese visa entries per year, a disproportionately low ratio compared to other ethnic groups.
This restriction was finally lifted at the height of the civil rights movement with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The Act increased the visa quota to 170,000 per year based on immigrant skills and family relationships in the United States. In a resolution sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu (D-California), the first Asian American elected to Congress, the House of Representatives officially apologized for the Chinese Exclusion Act. This rare apology occurred only recently on June 18, 2012.
Gold Mountain was initially named for California and in particular San Francisco where the immigrants disembarked bound for the gold fields. In the San Francisco census from 1860 to 2010 (by decades) the rise and fall of the Chinese population tells of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, and the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965.
Each lotus in this drawing represents approximately 1,500 Chinese individuals. In many Buddhist temples, a lotus light represents the light of a soul for which the monks offer prayers.
Tea is a commodity that was worth more than gold at one time, a major factor in the trafficking of opium and a symbol of America’s rebellion against Britain.
On another level, tea is about community. These leaves were gathered over a year by my mother from the Taiwanese community in New Jersey to contribute to this and other installations.
Migration--On Yellow Brick Road
4:30' HD Video
music composed and performed by Aaron Trant
Migration--On Yellow Brick Road
Installation View Helen Day Art Center
mix media on paper 8" x 11"
Gold Mountain Prayer (San Francisco Census)
gold ink on rice paper 20"x 50"
Gold Mountain Prayer
gold leaf, tea, graphite, vellum 8ft x 16ft
Belongings (Carrying Hope)
dried gilded tea, 6 suitcases