February Cultural Work Roundup 2023
Welcome to February’s Cultural Work Roundup! The Roundup is an interview of a local BIPOC cultural worker and the things they’ve been taking in and putting out into the world. APANO recognizes that solidarity is an integral part of cultural change, that our society is built on the disproportionate exploitation and oppression of Black and Indigenous people, and that Pacific Islander communities have been marginalized in the work of Asian/Asian American visibility. So, the Roundup prioritizes emerging Black, Indigenous, and Pasifika artists, as well as emerging Asian/Asian American and POC artists who are doing solidarity work through a BIPOC/intersectional lens. This month, I got the pleasure to interview: Alex Dang - a poet born and raised in Portland, OR exploring identity, universal education, and anime! Read on to learn more about him, read some of his poetry, and learn where to catch his open mic performances.
What’s your name and pronouns?
Alex Dang! He/Him/His pronouns
Where do you call home?
What does “cultural work” mean to you? How does your art fit within it?
I think all art and work falls under “cultural work” in the sense that what you do as an individual can both influence and be influenced by culture. Culture is an entity that is constantly changing and progressing that accepts all and has no limit or boundary. With that being said though, the work can then become how to specify and define it with what makes it unique to you and your society. What your work does shapes culture and vice versa. And so, for me, cultural work means to live and understand my immediate environment and identity in order to represent my work to the best of its abilities. The “work/grind/hustle” culture or the “elite” culture? I’m more interested in cultivating a culture of honesty. That has led me to recognize and operate from my specific point of view. This being that my culture that I represent is not monolithic; it is my individual standing in solidarity. And so my culture is Portland, it is being Asian-American, it is being a child of immigrants. This is what I represent.
What’s your dream, vision, schemings of a liberated future, new world, etc.? How does your art connect to it?
The big plan I would want to see more and more would be universal education. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that we have to pay for education; for a better path to a “better” future. The education provided follows a system and that system does not give everybody the same opportunities. There’s a lot of stuff I want in my liberated vision but let’s start with education. My mom has been an educator my entire life and I’ve been extremely indebted to so many of my teachers and professors. But the way the school system is set up is beyond frustrating. Little to no resources are provided to so many schools while the teachers and students are suffering. The fatigue that both the educators and students are feeling hinders the overall school experience: how does one learn and teach in a building that is falling apart? Working with students and bringing them poetry has been one of my favorite things to do. Through writing and poetry , I try to take one subject or moment and to break it down into smaller, specific pieces. From there, I will be able to examine something as complicated as identity. How extremely lucky! I was always told to be the person you needed when you were younger, so I hope I’m making 16 year old Alex proud.
Yes, All the Aunties by Alex Dang
What have you been getting involved with or practicing that brings you closer to your solidarity work (like groups, meditation, learning circles, etc.)?
I’ve created and have been hosting an open mic for the last few months now. It's called Moonroof Open Mic and it’s hosted at The Zed (5617 SE 92nd). We’ve had all sorts of acts come though: comedians, rappers, acoustic acts, poems of course. The crowd is small but those who are there always show the utmost support and love. It’s been tough to get people out to the venue and to build something from the ground up, but slowly we’ve been getting more and more folks out to the open mic. It reminds me how important community events are and how vital it is to have space for performing and fun. There were no all-ages open mics when I was growing up in Portland, so I always yearned for somewhere in the world to show my art.
What have you been watching that’s been inspiring you and/or informing your vision (from your social media feed, movies, TV shows, any other media)?
Oh plenty plenty! I’ve been rewatching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a Japanese anime, and it is so good! I can’t believe how good it still is. I’ve been on a nostalgia kick and it’s been wonderful revisiting the small things that brought me joy as a kid. It’s silly, but I find so much value in looking at the media that you like and to critically analyze it. There’s a reason why you like it! And to be able to study and examine it is another way to explore identity. What’s the difference between analyzing anime versus Victorian literature? Education often pigeonholes students and education needs to be more open and responsive to the students. It reminds me of where I was and where I am now. Also while rewatching, I’m picking up on little hints and bits of foreshadowing which has been great! Every rewatch is a new watch! It reminds me of the artist Georgia O'Keefe and how she has like 20 paintings of the same door but since she did them across her life, they’re all the same door but not the same.
What have you been listening to that’s been giving you life (podcast recommendations, a song or album that gets you out of bed, etc.)?
Podcast recommendations always go to My Brother, My Brother and Me and The Adventure Zone! MBMBAM is a silly podcast that’s hosted by 3 brothers who give bad advice. The Adventure Zone is a live play DND podcast by the MBMBAM brothers and their dad! I’ve been listening to Inside by Bo Burnham, The Forever Story by JID, and Cheat Codes by Black Thought. Bo Burnham’s work has always had an influence on me. I love the way he approaches topics like isolation and apathy in the face of this world. The Forever Story is just an incredible hip hop album: great beats, next level rhyming, and a narrative underneath the sound. Cheat Codes has just been my “getting ready” music in the morning to get me amped for the day.
What’s the last thing you read that moved you (articles, books, poetry, whatever)?
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay. It makes my heart smile. Ross Gay is the epitome of ecstatic, joyful poetry. My favorite poem by him is a simple and wonderful ode to the sharing and building of community over hand picked figs.
How do we get connected to your art and/or work?
Come visit me at Moonroof Open Mic, every Tuesday from 7PM-9PM at The Zed (5716 SE 92nd Ave)!
IG and Twitter: @alexdangpoetry
Be our next featured artist or nominate an artist you know! If you would like to be featured in a future Cultural Work Roundup or would like to nominate someone, let me know by telling me a bit about yourself or the artist you know. The Roundup prioritizes emerging Black, Indigenous, and Pasifika artists, as well as emerging Asian/Asian American and POC artists who are doing solidarity work through a BIPOC/intersectional lens. The interview can be done over coffee, Zoom, or email! You can contact me by:
We’re also sharing local offerings, events, etc. from community members in the Roundup. Send your opportunities to Grace by the 20th of each month!
Constellation: A Reading Series
When: Thursday, Feb 16, 7-9pm
Location: Tin House
Info: Visit the website or Instagram (@constellationreading) for COVID policy and accessibility accommodations. Send questions to: email@example.com.
Constellation: A Reading Series at Tin House is a *free* local Portland gathering for readers and writers. Our goal is to provide a warm, welcoming, inclusive community space to enjoy the art of local and visiting writers, particularly those with identities that have historically been pushed to the margins. We meet every third Thursday of each month at Tin House in NW Portland.
This February, 16th at 7pm, we welcome Manuel Aragon (he/him) is a Latinx writer, director, and filmmaker from Denver, CO who is currently working on a collection of speculative short stories; Korean American author, Lisa Lee (she/her), who is at work on a novel called American Han, about Asian anger and Korean American and immigrant rage; and Ari Schill (they/them), a writer and storyteller who travels between Portland and Brooklyn. Ari centers narratives from Black & QTPOC people and transgender/gender nonconforming adoptees of color.
Property of Opaqueness
When: Feb 26, 2-3pm
Location: Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College (615 S. Palatine Hill Road MSC 95, Portland OR 97219)
Info: Visit the website for more information
Property of Opaqueness is a dance performance, which investigates the nuances of the idea of visibility and invisibility and how much agency we have to appear and disappear in daily life. Dancers: Takahiro Yamamoto, featuring Roland Dahwen and Emily Squires
The Year of the Rabbits, an art exhibit by Portland-based artist Qi You
When: on view daily through March 26, 2023. Artist talk on March 1, 5-7pm
Location: PGE Gallery Lobby at Portland Center Stage (128 NW Eleventh Avenue)
Info: Visit the website for more information
The Year of the Rabbits draws upon the artist’s history as a design student at China Central Academy of Fine Arts and Qi. It involves reinventing traditional zodiac animal iconography and bringing her wishes into a new collective story with this dedicated life-long project. From Beijing to Portland, from the ironic expression to bridging identities in her second home, the year of the rabbit 2023 is a fresh new start for the symbols after reaching its 12-year cycle. This gallery exhibit will be on display in the PGE Gallery Lobby and will include a mix of prints on varied mediums.
“1000 Moons” by Emily Jung Miller
What does it look like to imagine a life time?
When: Feb. 17 – May 19, 2023. Artist Reception March 3, 5:30-7:30pm
Location: Arts Council of Lake Oswego (in the new City Hall building)
380 A St., Suite A, Lake Oswego
Open 10-5 Tues-Fri
The 1000 Moons art installations follow my grief process of creating 1000+ hand-formed paper moons, representing every full moon cycle witnessed by my grandmother from her birth to her death. 1000 Moons envisions a lifetime as a tangible space where viewers can locate themselves within the full span of another life.
This programming message brought to you by APANO Communities United Fund, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
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