14 7 / 2014

Happy Summer Vacation from Accidental Chinese Hipsters and Frankie Rogers in Athens, who sent in this instructional pic. I’m convinced that if Laura Ingalls Wilder were on a modern day European adventure with her best friend they’d be wearing these bonnets and matching dollar store crocs, and possibly some improvised flannel bibs.

Happy Summer Vacation from Accidental Chinese Hipsters and Frankie Rogers in Athens, who sent in this instructional pic. I’m convinced that if Laura Ingalls Wilder were on a modern day European adventure with her best friend they’d be wearing these bonnets and matching dollar store crocs, and possibly some improvised flannel bibs.

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31 1 / 2014

Happy Lunar New Year!


Whether you are rolling in your Buddha mobile, pinching on the cheeks of cute babies, or on your high school lunch hour showing your friends the dancing lions that eat cabbages and lucky money from the sky, or just a ramen noodle mascot taking a break from a crowded event, I salute you.

This afternoon there was a fireworks show at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. I stood at the edge of the crowd on top of a low, concrete wall, shins against the guardrail, mouth open, ears plugged as a fiery outline of a horse ignited in the center of the basketball court and then more big explosions and balls of smoke happened in the trees above. Buzzed with excitement and smiling with strangers. Just as it ended, there was a confusing moment when no one knew if we were being dusted by fresh snow or ashes from the fireworks. A man who looked to be in his 70s popped up on the wall by my side. He was friendly and asked me something in Cantonese, and I fumbled, said dui bu qi and I’m sorry I can’t speak Chinese, feeling that I had disappointed him. But then he started trying to get down. While he straddled the 3 foot drop with one foot on a bench, and I scrambled to go first and stuck my hand awkwardly into his armpit to support him. He said, thanks, and I said, happy new year.

That’s how it often goes for me in Chinatown: not fully a part of things, but not apart from them either. And it still makes me feel at home.

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10 7 / 2013

The Wearable Art Class exhibition debuted on June 24th to much fanfare, and was well attended by City Hall Senior Center members, fans and proponents of inter-generational art education, the Finns of New York, and the downtown Manhattan art community. The spread, complete with egg custard tarts, seaweed snacks, open face Finnish sandwiches (thanks, Nordic Breads!), fruit plate, and dried anchovies was not to be beat (and a very Chinese way of entertaining at an art opening, so I’m told). Also, what a joy it is to drink white wine with the over 70 set on a hot summer day - just so long as there’s a buddy system in place for when someone wants to go down a set of stairs.

Probably the best thing about the show was being with this group of nascent artists who were seeing their work on public display for the first time and realizing that they were so much like my younger artist friends and myself. Just as any artist would, they had some jitters before the opening. Kit told me, “We’re going to be like clowns,” (perhaps not a totally unreasonable fear when you’re showing photos of yourself in a magical rainbow colored cloak that attaches to your feather hat, but untrue nonetheless). Then, at the gallery, with a glow in her face, she said, “It’s not what I expected. We aren’t clowns!”  I replied, “Yeah, not clowns. Classy!” And she said, “Not classy, just not clowns,” thus ending an exchange which pretty much sums up my internal dialog at every show I’ve done. They were good. They were mesmerized by the video of their performances. They spoke with poise about their work. Later, Marie stood on the steps of the gallery and declared that she was ready for more adventures. “I’m young in my heart!” she said, and extended her arms like she was going to embrace the world.

I met a woman, a milliner, at the opening who asked me a very good question. How do you view the people you’ve written about on your blog differently after this experience? This I’m still striving to answer, but I can say one thing now: I didn’t expect them to be so self aware. And in that self knowledge their fearlessness becomes even more amazing. I have unwittingly, though not surprisingly, progressed to a totally irony-free view of the people who I once revered and made fun of on this forum. It couldn’t have happened if we hadn’t found a common ground, a way to communicate through making art together, and for that I am grateful.

Expect to see our video works here in the future, as well as updates about new projects. The SPARC program has ended, but the Wearable Art crew rages on.


Photos by Wei Xiaoguang and Alison Kuo.

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14 6 / 2013

Accidental Chinese Hipsters invites you to meet the Wearable Art Class of the City Hall Senior Center! Spread the word.

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14 6 / 2013

Remember when I told you guys about the Wearable Art Class at the City Hall Senior Center in Chinatown? We are having so much fun, and gaining new friends and artists collaborators along the way. The students have gone from a state of curiosity and slight tentativeness, to developing new crafting techniques involving hot glue, glitter and chopsticks, styling each other for photo shoots, performing in front of an audience of 600 people at a banquet hall in the costumes they made, and just the other day, showing up at my collaborator Riitta’s studio to create fashion out of bok choy and string beans like old pros. Then, of course, they danced their way down to Grand Street while Wei filmed them. Because they are my heroes.

Our public program will be at Christopher Henry Gallery in the Lower East Side of NYC on June 24 and 25th. I’ll post the press release on the blog. 


(Pictured: Marie, Harvard, Florence, Wei, Kit, Riitta, and me. Photos by Alison Kuo.)

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19 3 / 2013

Ever wonder what happened to Accidental Chinese Hipsters in its very extended, graduate-school-induced hiatus? Well, I’ve been taking this blog nonsense into the real world, and it’s just the best thing, let me tell you. Nearly a year ago I met the Finnish artist Riitta Ikoen in a Chinatown lunch hall over a plate of greasy char siu and rice, and we declared our aim to make art with Chinese American seniors. Thanks to a grant from SPARC and the LMCC, and to the generous help of the staff at the City Hall Senior Center, we are now doing just that in the format of a Wearable Art Class.
Collaborating with the art and life-loving seniors at City Hall is an incredibly rewarding extension of everything that I have learned from Accidental Chinese Hipsters, and I’m excited to share more of what we create in the future. For now, please browse around the Eyes as Big as Plates blog, which includes photos from each class as well as sweet documentation of Riitta’s ongoing photography project.
Photo copyright Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikoen.

Ever wonder what happened to Accidental Chinese Hipsters in its very extended, graduate-school-induced hiatus? Well, I’ve been taking this blog nonsense into the real world, and it’s just the best thing, let me tell you. Nearly a year ago I met the Finnish artist Riitta Ikoen in a Chinatown lunch hall over a plate of greasy char siu and rice, and we declared our aim to make art with Chinese American seniors. Thanks to a grant from SPARC and the LMCC, and to the generous help of the staff at the City Hall Senior Center, we are now doing just that in the format of a Wearable Art Class.

Collaborating with the art and life-loving seniors at City Hall is an incredibly rewarding extension of everything that I have learned from Accidental Chinese Hipsters, and I’m excited to share more of what we create in the future. For now, please browse around the Eyes as Big as Plates blog, which includes photos from each class as well as sweet documentation of Riitta’s ongoing photography project.

Photo copyright Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikoen.

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31 10 / 2012

"In the aftermath of #Sandy, Chinatown residents need your help! CAAAV offices will be open to collect food/water, batteries, and flashlights. Volunteers are needed to pass out flyers and food, check in on tenants, and more. Also, if have access to a photocopier, please contact them. CAAAV offices are located on 46 Hester Street and will be open starting at 10 am today (Wed)." - via the Asian American Writers’ Workshop

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14 9 / 2012

Some of you may have noticed that I gave myself a little blog hiatus over the last month. There have been a few big changes in my life - I just started a graduate studies program - and thinking about those changes, which was actually much more stressful than experiencing those changes, temporarily made it difficult to approach writing for Accidental Chinese Hipsters. Well, this blue lady manifested yesterday as a way of saying, “You haven’t heard the last of me.”
Borrowing a phrase from OWS, she declares, “I am unstoppable!” She charges through the landscape like a warrior, fortified by pearl neck guard, sequin epaulets, and enemy fear-making hair pile, reminiscent of owl decoy. It is 1:45 in the afternoon on the Upper West Side of New York City. Somewhere, a ballgown is appropriate.
Thanks to my good friend Sarah M for taking this. Also brought to you by shiny hologram gift bags: welcome to the future of carrying things.

Some of you may have noticed that I gave myself a little blog hiatus over the last month. There have been a few big changes in my life - I just started a graduate studies program - and thinking about those changes, which was actually much more stressful than experiencing those changes, temporarily made it difficult to approach writing for Accidental Chinese Hipsters. Well, this blue lady manifested yesterday as a way of saying, “You haven’t heard the last of me.”

Borrowing a phrase from OWS, she declares, “I am unstoppable!” She charges through the landscape like a warrior, fortified by pearl neck guard, sequin epaulets, and enemy fear-making hair pile, reminiscent of owl decoy. It is 1:45 in the afternoon on the Upper West Side of New York City. Somewhere, a ballgown is appropriate.

Thanks to my good friend Sarah M for taking this. Also brought to you by shiny hologram gift bags: welcome to the future of carrying things.

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20 7 / 2012

Happy Friday, everyone. Let’s enjoy life to the fullest in every moment because nothing is permanent in this violent, unpredictable world. Just don’t get a sunburn.

Happy Friday, everyone. Let’s enjoy life to the fullest in every moment because nothing is permanent in this violent, unpredictable world. Just don’t get a sunburn.

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16 7 / 2012

Tessa Chong sent me the above image with the explanation that she had seen and drawn the man from memory on a trip to Toronto. We got to talking, and the following interview and her interpretations of some other noted Accidental Chinese Hipsters ensued. You can see more of her work here. ACH: How old are you and where are you living now?
TESSA CHONG: I am 27 and living in Amsterdam. But I’ve only just arrived here. Before that I was living in Sydney. And I spent most of my life in Melbourne.ACH: You introduced yourself to me as a fellow “halfie.” Can you tell me a little bit about your family background? TESSA CHONG: My mother was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. My dad is Chinese from Malaysia. He only really speaks Cantonese. I have two older siblings who now both have little quarter asian kids! My parents met in the 70s when they were both living in London. The story goes, my mum and a friend were waiting in line to see the Godfather. My dad sidled up to my mum with his friend, and his opening line was “Are you girls American?” then he suggested they all go see a Chinese film instead because the queue was too long. Maybe my mum was charmed by my Dad’s directness, but as they say, the rest is history…ACH: Do you mean that your dad hit on your mom without sharing her language? That’s impressive. I also have a Chinese dad and a Caucasian mom, which I think is a little rarer than the other way around. What language(s) does your family use to communicate?TESSA CHONG: No, he spoke in English to her. He’s always had pretty good English. My family has only ever communicated in English. ACH: Do you think you have experienced the traditional (stereotypical) strict Asian parenting? If so, how did you come to be an artist and world traveler?TESSA CHONG: I didn’t experience any of that stereotypical Asian parenting. My dad has always been fairly easy-going. He didn’t care what we did with our lives, nor did he pressure us into going in a particular direction. Both my parents just supported us with whatever we wanted to do. We turned out ok! In fact, I think my recent adventures have been inspired in part by my parents’ travels.


ACH: What’s the reason you’re doing your blog, The Sketchorialist?TESSA CHONG: I started it after I quit my most recent job (in advertising). I’ve always loved to draw, but suddenly I had a lot more time on my hands (as well as a lot more motivation). I like observing people on the street, and I think I have a pretty good visual memory,  so I thought why not start recording the people I observe. I find photography can be a bit intrusive sometimes, and I am too shy to go up to people and ask if I can take their photo. It also seemed like a good way to document my travels. I find drawing relaxing and it’s something I can really lose myself in. ACH: That’s a very considerate, almost gentle, solution for making observational art in a digital world. How long after you see people do you draw them? Also, what do you think about the nature of the photos on this blog which have obviously been taken without the permission of the subject?TESSA CHONG: I try and draw them that day, or at least within a day or so after seeing them. Sometimes I do take a sneaky photo which helps. But yeah, when the image is fresh in my mind I try and get a simple sketch down and then refine it. Sometimes if I only have vague recollections of a person I have to fill in the gaps with my imagination. I’m just personally too self-conscious to poke a camera at someone. I’m even self-conscious about my iphone camera.  I feel like a creep when I use it surreptitiously and then I start acting all weird because I am trying to hide the fact I’m taking a photo.I think the photos on your blog are great. I don’t find it malicious or intrusive. Have you received many complaints about it? I can see how people would see it as poking fun, but to be honest I don’t think the (mostly) older Asian subjects would give a shit. If it was my dad in those, he’d find it amusing. But I would be curious to see their reaction if one of them was shown the website. ACH: I’ve never actually received a complaint of that nature, but then again neither has anyone come forward after seeing themselves on the blog. I do feel a tiny bit vulnerable in that respect because I would hate to upset someone. My own dad has no idea that he’s been written about, adoringly but still perhaps not 100% above board, here.ACH: How do you relate to other Chinese people when you are abroad?TESSA CHONG: I feel like there is a common understanding.  There is definitely an immediate familiarity. Whenever I walk through any Chinatown in any city I feel weirdly at home. Other Chinese people are normally the ones that ask about my background. More so than the Anglo people. I think because they know I’m Chinese, but not fully and are curious.

ACH: Do you know a lot of other halfies? TESSA CHONG: Yes I know quite a few around my age. I think that was the time when there was a lot more cross-cultural marriage. It’s an interesting combo and I love having both cultural influences in my life. My other “halfie” friends feel the same way.
Many thanks to Tessa for these lovely drawings and her thoughts.

Tessa Chong sent me the above image with the explanation that she had seen and drawn the man from memory on a trip to Toronto. We got to talking, and the following interview and her interpretations of some other noted Accidental Chinese Hipsters ensued. You can see more of her work here.


ACH: How old are you and where are you living now?

TESSA CHONG: I am 27 and living in Amsterdam. But I’ve only just arrived here. Before that I was living in Sydney. And I spent most of my life in Melbourne.

ACH: You introduced yourself to me as a fellow “halfie.” Can you tell me a little bit about your family background?

TESSA CHONG: My mother was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. My dad is Chinese from Malaysia. He only really speaks Cantonese. I have two older siblings who now both have little quarter asian kids!

My parents met in the 70s when they were both living in London. The story goes, my mum and a friend were waiting in line to see the Godfather. My dad sidled up to my mum with his friend, and his opening line was “Are you girls American?” then he suggested they all go see a Chinese film instead because the queue was too long. Maybe my mum was charmed by my Dad’s directness, but as they say, the rest is history…

ACH: Do you mean that your dad hit on your mom without sharing her language? That’s impressive. I also have a Chinese dad and a Caucasian mom, which I think is a little rarer than the other way around. What language(s) does your family use to communicate?

TESSA CHONG: No, he spoke in English to her. He’s always had pretty good English. My family has only ever communicated in English.

ACH: Do you think you have experienced the traditional (stereotypical) strict Asian parenting? If so, how did you come to be an artist and world traveler?

TESSA CHONG: I didn’t experience any of that stereotypical Asian parenting. My dad has always been fairly easy-going. He didn’t care what we did with our lives, nor did he pressure us into going in a particular direction. Both my parents just supported us with whatever we wanted to do. We turned out ok! In fact, I think my recent adventures have been inspired in part by my parents’ travels.


ACH: What’s the reason you’re doing your blog, The Sketchorialist?

TESSA CHONG: I started it after I quit my most recent job (in advertising). I’ve always loved to draw, but suddenly I had a lot more time on my hands (as well as a lot more motivation). I like observing people on the street, and I think I have a pretty good visual memory,  so I thought why not start recording the people I observe. I find photography can be a bit intrusive sometimes, and I am too shy to go up to people and ask if I can take their photo. It also seemed like a good way to document my travels. I find drawing relaxing and it’s something I can really lose myself in.

ACH: That’s a very considerate, almost gentle, solution for making observational art in a digital world. How long after you see people do you draw them? Also, what do you think about the nature of the photos on this blog which have obviously been taken without the permission of the subject?

TESSA CHONG: I try and draw them that day, or at least within a day or so after seeing them. Sometimes I do take a sneaky photo which helps. But yeah, when the image is fresh in my mind I try and get a simple sketch down and then refine it. Sometimes if I only have vague recollections of a person I have to fill in the gaps with my imagination. I’m just personally too self-conscious to poke a camera at someone. I’m even self-conscious about my iphone camera.  I feel like a creep when I use it surreptitiously and then I start acting all weird because I am trying to hide the fact I’m taking a photo.

I think the photos on your blog are great. I don’t find it malicious or intrusive. Have you received many complaints about it? I can see how people would see it as poking fun, but to be honest I don’t think the (mostly) older Asian subjects would give a shit. If it was my dad in those, he’d find it amusing. But I would be curious to see their reaction if one of them was shown the website.

ACH: I’ve never actually received a complaint of that nature, but then again neither has anyone come forward after seeing themselves on the blog. I do feel a tiny bit vulnerable in that respect because I would hate to upset someone. My own dad has no idea that he’s been written about, adoringly but still perhaps not 100% above board, here.

ACH: How do you relate to other Chinese people when you are abroad?

TESSA CHONG: I feel like there is a common understanding.  There is definitely an immediate familiarity. Whenever I walk through any Chinatown in any city I feel weirdly at home. Other Chinese people are normally the ones that ask about my background. More so than the Anglo people. I think because they know I’m Chinese, but not fully and are curious.


ACH: Do you know a lot of other halfies?

TESSA CHONG: Yes I know quite a few around my age. I think that was the time when there was a lot more cross-cultural marriage. It’s an interesting combo and I love having both cultural influences in my life. My other “halfie” friends feel the same way.


Many thanks to Tessa for these lovely drawings and her thoughts.

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