Strange Stories From a Chinese Studio 

2009, rear-screen video installation, digital video, 6:00 minutes

Hironaka video graces Asian Arts and passersby

There’s a fabulous piece of public art–a video projected on a window on Vine Street–good enough to make you slow down your car and forget to drive it.
Nadia Hironaka’s Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, is visible only after dark, on the window of the Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street. It is part of Asian Arts’ second Chinatown In/flux exhibition, this one subtitled Future Landscapes. This outing, there are four (or six, depending on who’s counting–two of them are matched pairs of a sort) public art projects scattered around the Chinatown neighborhood.

Hironaka’s piece celebrates the Asian presence in America and the cross-fertilization of the two cultures–American Pop billboard meets spare Asian crockery decoration. The video is like watching 1000 clowns emerge from a VW bug. A giant hand uses chopsticks to pick Asian cultural icons out of a Chinese food take-out container while Western cultural icons rain down from off camera (at least that’s where I came in on the video loop). The symbolic cultural exchange ranges from Heinz ketchup bottles to mah jongg tiles, and the logic magically shifts so what rains down or emerges from the box can be Asian or American. Off to the side, a group of ambiguous, silhouetted figures group, ungroup, regroup–people too flat to reveal their ethnic identities (unless you happen to know who’s who).

The image is luminous, beautiful and endlessly pleasing and engaging. It can deliver a quick hit for people driving by yet a slow unfolding of ideas for anyone who slows down to watch.

By Libby Rosof, The Art Blog, April 10, 2009