SpaceBi is staging a takeover of our museum on Thursday night. We asked founder Imin Yeh what that’s all about.
What is SpaceBi and how did it start?
SpaceBi is an unauthorized, pop-up contemporary art space quietly hosting a year’s worth of unofficial exhibitions, projects, and performances within the Asian Art Museum. SpaceBi invites local artists to use the Asian Art Museum as inspiration, as a studio space, as a challenging framework for the creation of new work with the hope that artists can play with the experience of visiting large art institutions.
The project started when I used to be an employee working in the Museum Store, where I learned about the museum’s Jade Circle level membership program. Jade Circle members are seriously invested in the museum, actively participating in many programs and introducing new patrons to the museum. They also gain a few perks such as bringing up to four visitors to the museum at a time and access to the private Peterson Room and adjacent garden.
The impetus for this project was to raise the funds to purchase this level of membership, and then use the membership benefits to invite local artists to create and share their work within the walls of the museum.
Why is the museum important to artists, in your opinion?
I think this museum is important to artists because is it a space dedicated to art. I strongly feel that any space that is open to art is important and relevant to all artists regardless of cultural specificity. This museum is doubly important because the collection belongs to the city of San Francisco, a fact that many people do not know. This museum is not only part of the city, it is housed in the old Public Library, so it is imbued with the history of the city.
As this project progresses, I think that the framework that SpaceBi has engineered is even more important to artists because the museum does not have a strongly established contemporary art program, so there is room in the museum for projects like SpaceBi to exist. Because there is that space, I think it is extremely relevant and important for artists to consider.
Why is this event called Taking Up Space?
I think a big part of the SpaceBi project has been about taking space, space that has never really been available to local, contemporary artists before. Since this event is the only official platform for a year’s worth of projects, we are going to be taking up A LOT of it. It will be the first time that local artists will be “exhibiting” their work or projects in this space, and over 28 artists are participating in this one evening.
You will find works in unlikely places throughout the museum: hidden projections, in the museum store, on stairwells, outside. New work will be created directly in conversation with the collection, and existing work will find new and interesting, albeit temporary, homes within the museum.
On top of that 8 local community groups will also be at the museum showing their independent projects.
Who are the artists involved in Taking Up Space and what are they working on?
You can find the full list of participants and their projects on our website: www.spacebi.org. The artists who are participating in this official event include Michael Namkung, Ricardo Rivera, Jose Navarrete, Debby Kajiyama, Adria Otte, Justin Hoover, Derek Chung, Amy Ho, Brandon Drew Holmes with Janey Smith and Tom Comitta, Charlene Tan, the Great Tortilla Conspiracy with Scott Tsuchitani, Raymond Wong, Zina Al-Shukri, Kim Anno, Imin Yeh, Jackie Im, Aaron Harbour, Julie Chang, Tina Takemoto, Stephanie Syjuco, Juan Luna-Avin, Pablo Cristi, Kathy Aoki, Erik Scollon, Kevin Chen, Johanna Poethig, Misako Inaoka, and Ranu Mukherjee. But please know that there are many more artists who have contributed projects to SpaceBi throughout the last year.
The artists who are participating comprise a diverse group. They make daily contributions to the cultural landscape of the Bay Area and beyond. And they have given their time and energy to thinking and considering the Asian Art Museum as a space for their work. I really hope that the participating artists are inspired or challenged by this frame work, and use it as an opportunity to try new work, get great documentation, and gain something from this experience.
The evening of this Matcha will be the premier of many works created specifically with the Asian Art Museum or this unique opportunity in mind.
What do you want people to get out of the experience of coming to Matcha: Taking Up Space?
The Bay Area is so rich with participatory, social practice based works and I hope that visitors enjoy and are challenged by experiencing living, breathing artwork. There are things that are whimsical and fun such as Super Disco Chino by Juan Luna-Avin and Amy Ho’s Fruit Costumes to dress up in, but there are also going to be some difficult, critical and heavily theoretical art experiences. This is an experiment for both the participating artists and also the institution, to function more as an incubator for the development of new work.
On your Facebook page you say that this is not an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum. What’s that about?
It is to acknowledge that we (all the participating artists, including myself) know that this work is not supported by the museum through its official exhibition program. “I am not in an exhibition,” as a statement, is meant to be empowering: this isn’t an Asian Art Museum exhibition and we are proud that it is not. It is a collaboration born from artists and not from the institution and it therefore does not need to adhere to the same rules.
This project has been supported by the vision and effort of the Education team and the museum store, as well as the incredible openness of both the Facilities and Security departments.