In Balancing Cultures, I am working with layers of meaning, memory, and family—and with Executive Order 9066, which mandated the incarceration of 120,000 American citizens and legal residents of Japanese ancestry. Startled by a discovery of old family photographs taken in a WWII American concentration camp, I felt compelled to speak out in contrast to my parents’ silence about their incarceration. I wanted to give voice to their feelings, which they kept concealed for fear of retribution.
To make Balancing Cultures, I pieced together the historical puzzle of my family history. I feel this is something everyone does. We are the puzzle—our family, friends, community, and society—all pieces within the big puzzle of the universe. Creating a visual narrative through transitory collaged photographs, using artifacts, documents, and memories, resulted in a personal expression of one family’s journey from immigration to incarceration, and re-integration. This work began as a personal identity project and grew into an examination of the United States’ political and social injustices against its Japanese American population.
EO 9066 was a dark chapter in American history that injured its victims and succeeding generations in ways both seen and unseen. Emotional trauma has no statute of limitations and silence is a powerful transmitter of emotional trauma, imposing a complex legacy on the next generation. Balancing Cultures reminds us that racism, hysteria, and economic exploitation are all attributes of xenophobia. We see renewed violence against Asian Americans today. Sharing these feelings publicly can feel like a betrayal—a revealing of family secrets, yet it’s not only healing—it’s now crucial to the context of the times. If silence sanctions, documentation is resistance.