Lani Asunción, Big Luau Give Back Aloha | Photo by Sasha Pedro

Lani Asunción: Duty-free Paradise

Curated by J.R. Uretsky

On view: January 20–April 13, 2024

Public Performance: March 16, 2024 | 4–6pm

Join us on Saturday, March 16, 2024, from 4-6 pm at the Mills Gallery for performances by Lani Asunción, Shey’ Rí Acu’ Rivera Ríos and Anabel Vázquez Rodríguez. Artists will conjure cultural memory, queer power, and liberated futures through performances that respond to the impacts of imperialism in the context of the United States and grounded on the events of 1898 when the United States invaded Puerto Rico and annexed Hawai’i.

*Performance starts promptly at 4:30 pm

RSVP


Duty-Free Paradise (DFP) (2020-23) plays on the tensions between lived and imagined Hawai‘i. Through the lens of tourism, around which the Islands’ economy heavily circulates, this work explores the contradictions between perceptions and realities of island life as a paradise constructed through American pop culture, underwritten by militarism and biopolitics.

Duty-Free Paradise at the Mills Gallery at Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) explores the colonial history between Boston and Hawai‘i through Asunción’s queer, multiracial, Filipinx identity and lived experience. In the 1920s, Asunción’s grandparents immigrated from the Philippines to the island of O’ahu to work at the Kahuku Sugar Plantation, where Asunción’s father was born. Decades later, Asunción found themselves creating in their studio in Jamaica Plain, a few blocks away from the historic Dole House home of James Drummond Dole — founder of The Hawaiian Pineapple Company, now known as the Dole Food Company. Dole’s legacy is intricately rooted in the dispossession of indigenous Kānaka Maoli lands orchestrated by his cousin, Governor Stanford Dole, a key figure in the 1893 coup against the Hawaiian Monarchy. In 1898, the once-free sovereign state was illegally annexed by the United States. Mirroring the same year Spain formally ceded the Philippine Islands to the U.S. This convergence of events set the stage for the migration of Filipinos to Hawai‘i, where they labored on plantations such as Dole’s.

As a Filipinx-American who grew up in Hawai‘i, now living in Boston, Asunción offers an exposition of Boston’s complicated history with Hawai‘i. Through honoring Kānaka Maoli culture  and the Filipinx diaspora, they embody characters that critique colonialism and imperialism with a compelling sense of ritualistic care.

Public Programs

Opening Reception

Friday, January 26 | 6–9pm

BCA Mills Gallery, 551 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02116

Join us for the public opening reception for two exhibitions: Lani Asunción: Duty-Free Paradise and, in the Project Room, Robert Rovenolt: (no regrets), 6-9pm in the Mills Gallery. Concurrently, next door from 5:30–8pm, there’s an open house in the Artist Studios Building holding our BCA Studio Residency.

 

Public Performance

Saturday, March 16 | 4–6pm

BCA Mills Gallery, 551 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02116

Join us on Saturday, March 16, 2024, from 4-6 pm at the Mills Gallery for performances by Lani Asunción, Shey’ Rí Acu’ Rivera Ríos and Anabel Vázquez Rodríguez. Artists will conjure cultural memory, queer power, and liberated futures through performances that respond to the impacts of imperialism in the context of the United States and grounded on the events of 1898 when the United States invaded Puerto Rico and annexed Hawai’i.

*Performance starts promptly at 4:30 pm

About

About the Artist

Lani Asunción

Lani Asunción is an interdisciplinary multimedia artist who makes socially engaged work that uses transmedia storytelling through new media technologies and immersive digital environments. Asuncion creates a visual language guided by historical research, community engagement, and experimental ritualized performance connected to their identity as a queer multiracial Filipinx-American. They use new media to encourage conversations that magnify connections to facilitate healing in the face of cultural violence, oppression, and ancestral intergenerational trauma narratives. Asunción has been awarded the Kala Fellowship, Future Frequencies Fellowship at MassMoCA Studios, and NEFA Public Art for Spatial Justice Grant. They are founder and Creative Director of Digital Soup, a Boston based queer BIPOC multimedia arts collective.

About the Curator

J.R. Uretsky

J.R. Uretsky is an artist, performer, musician, and art curator living in Providence, Rhode Island. Uretsky has over fifteen years of experience organizing, designing, and installing exhibitions. Uretsky worked as the curator at the New Bedford Art Museum, where they exhibited Pete Souza (Chief Official White House Photographer for President Barack Obama) and Academy Award-winning (Black Panther, 2019) costume designer Ruth E. Carter. Their artwork and writing have been published in print, online, and video journals such as Headmaster Magazine, Sculpture Magazine, Gaga Stigmata, Big Red & Shiny, and ASPECT: The Chronicle of New Media Art. Uretsky earned degrees from Biola University, the University of Connecticut, and Harvard University.

IN THE PRESS