I strongly believe so, as I am currently preparing for an exhibit in Beijing, China, where artworks are sometimes censored and banned from public view.
I would like to first clarify an important aspect of my artwork on the ceiling of the newly built comfort station. I did not make the artwork to write an accurate or general history of Ocean Beach, nor to commemorate the 125-year anniversary of Ocean Beach.
I am not equipped to write an accurate history of Ocean Beach, nor do I deserve to do so just having lived there for five years of my life.
Second of all, I never made my work with an intention to hurt nor to offend anyone. I have always believed in art’s capacity to start a dialogue and heal rather than hurting people.
In my work, I utilized words and texts to describe some of the things that I felt were important. I used some texts (not all) from the OB Rag because a grassroots citizen-driven publication like that is a testament to Ocean Beach’s spirit of freedom, not because I agree with what they say, their views and their accuracy.
It is important to note that I did not “quote” these articles. I used these texts as a pool of vocabularies and defragmented them in ripple shapes so that they intersect with the vocabularies from the writers whose name appear on the Ocean Beach’s streets.
I felt that these mixes of vocabularies of past and present create new meanings and new interpretation, and perhaps a new proposal for the future.
Why for the future? Because I knew that building is built to last for a long time, and hopefully that artwork will last for a long time as well. So when someone looks at it 20 or 30 years later, they can remember the most random and beautiful moments as well as some difficult moments of Ocean Beach.
For an example, when I lived in Ocean Beach, I was extremely sad about incidents involving shootings. I am not trying to blame any particular person, party or policy, but rather I wanted to share my feeling — I was simply sad that these things had to happen.
I remember thinking deeply about the idea of freedom and what it meant, and what it takes to create that. Hence, I feel strongly that the only way these things do not happen again is by not forgetting them.
I believe art is a perfect platform to talk and think about these difficult and sometimes painful memories.
I say this also because when I visited the Ocean Beach Historical Society in my research, I could not find much written or documented about Wonderland which stood right by the bathroom merely 100 years ago or so. I was disappointed that such a wonderful history is not very widely remembered in Ocean Beach, and again reminded about the importance of remembering.
Ultimately, I would like to make clear that I am also not trying to control how the work is viewed and interpreted. I would like everyone to go see the work, use the bathroom, and have his/her own interpretation of the art.
Being able to work on this art was truly a honor for me because Ocean Beach is such an important place for me, After all, I learned and put into practice the Obecean spirit of freedom when I was living nine houses away from the bathroom on Brighton Avenue.
From the living room of this apartment, I co-founded The AJA Project, a nonprofit that work with refugee children using photography which 12 years later is still thriving as one of the most innovative social organization in San Diego.