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The Center for Southeast Asian Studies organizes and sponsors a number of events such as lectures, film screening, workshops, symposia, conferences, exhibits, and performances throughout the year.  Several of these events are in collaboration with other U-M units, and are often free and open to the public. To see what we have planned for this semester, please visit our 2020 Lecture Series page.

Search Engines | "Asian futures, without Asians"

Astria Suparak
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
6:00-7:30 PM
Helmut Stern Auditorium Museum of Art Map
Please register in advance for the online Zoom Webinar here:

Please register for the physical meeting space at the University of Michigan’s Central Campus:

"Asian futures, without Asians" is a multimedia presentation by artist and curator Astria Suparak, which asks: “What does it mean when so many white filmmakers envision futures inflected by Asian culture, but devoid of actual Asian people?”

The first iteration of "Asian futures, without Asians" was an online performance commissioned by The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, as part of their Trinh T. Minh-ha season. The project has developed over a series of live performances made for the Zoom camera and for in-person, with script, imagery, costuming, and backdrops tailored to each arts institution and country in which it is presented.

As part of the inaugural season of the Digital Studies Institute and the DISCO Network’s Search Engines series, Astria Suparak will present a new, live multimedia performance edition of the project for the University of Michigan and for our broader community.

Part critical analysis, part reflective essay and sprinkled throughout with humor, justified anger, and informative morsels, this hour-long illustrated lecture examines nearly 60 years of American science fiction cinema through the lens of Asian appropriation and whitewashing. Using a wide interpretation of “Asian” to reflect current and historical geopolitical trends and self-definitions (inclusive of East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, North Africa, and the Pacific Islands—the latter two of which are not Asia), this research-creation project examines how Asian cultures have been mixed and matched, contrasted against, and conflated with each other, often creating a fungible “Asianness” in futuristic sci-fi.

The quick-paced performance lecture is interspersed with selected images and clips from dozens of futuristic movies and television shows, as Suparak delivers anecdotes, trivia, and historical documents (including photographs, advertisements, and cultural artifacts) from the histories of film, art, architecture, design, fashion, food, and martial arts. Suparak discusses the implications of not only borrowing heavily from Asian cultures, but decontextualizing and misrepresenting them, while excluding Asian contributors.

Artist Bio:

Astria Suparak is an artist, writer, and curator based in Oakland, California.

Her cross-disciplinary projects address complex and urgent issues (like institutionalized racism, feminisms and gender, and colonialism) made accessible through a popular culture lens, such as science fiction movies, rock music, and sports. Straddling creative and scholarly work, the projects often take the form of publicly available tools and databases, chronicling subcultures and omitted perspectives.

Over the last year Suparak’s creative projects have been exhibited and performed at the Museum of Modern Art and the Ford Foundation Gallery in New York; Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and as part of the For Freedoms billboard series. She has curated exhibitions, screenings, and performances for the Liverpool Biennial; Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City; The Kitchen, Eyebeam, and MoMA PS1, in New York; and Expo Chicago, as well as for unconventional spaces, such as roller-skating rinks, sports bars, and rock clubs. Suparak is the winner of the 2022 San Francisco Bay Area Artadia Award.

We want to make our events accessible to all participants. This event will be a hybrid event with both a physical meeting space and an online meeting space.

Please register in advance for the online Zoom Webinar here:

Please register for the physical meeting space at the University of Michigan’s Central Campus:

CART will be provided. If you anticipate needing accommodations to participate, please email Giselle Mills at Please note that some accommodations must be arranged in advance and we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.

Covid Precautions: The artists requests that guests wear well-fitting masks.

We would like to thank the following Department Co-Sponsors:

Department of American Culture
Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program
Department of Asian Languages and Culture
Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing
Center for Japanese Studies
Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies
Nam Center for Korean Studies
STAMPS School of Art and Design
Building: Museum of Art
Event Type: Performance
Tags: american culture, ArtsEngine, Asia, Asian American Studies, Department Of American Culture, Digital, Digital Culture, Digital Cultures, digital humanities, Digital Media, Digital Studies Institute, ethnic studies, Gender, Humanities, International, performance
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Digital Studies Institute, Center for Japanese Studies, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program, Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, Nam Center for Korean Studies, Penny W Stamps School of Art & Design, Department of American Culture, Asian Languages and Cultures