This weekend, Little Laos on the Prairie has an article by M.K. Khachanh giving a look at CTRL+ALT: A Culture Lab on Imagined Futures held at the Pearl River Mart in New York that was convened by the Smithsonian's Asian Pacific American Center as a pop-up museum.
There's a lot to process and consider when you have over 40+ artists engaged in such a new concept, so I have been trying to determine the best way to present this to my regular readers as well as newer folks just coming by. I currently have photos from the event at Flickr, for anyone who's particularly curious to see this gathering in detail.
The article at Little Laos on the Prairie covers many of my key thoughts on the matter, as well as those of my fellow Lao artist at the event, Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay. I'm happy that space was made to accommodate our eclectic artistic styles and interaction methods with other artists.
I emerged with some significant new understandings of possibilities of performance and presentation. But also a question of how we in the Lao American community might rally resources for our own creative artists to put forward an interesting response to many of the issues discussed here.
Lao could easily gather together over 40+ artists in a variety of disciplines. In a way, we've been doing so with the National Lao American Writers Summits that we've been convening since 2010, and events such as the Lao Artists Festival in Elgin, Illinois. But these have been more talent showcases. The CTRL+ALT experience differs in that people were at their stations all day to share ideas at their own pace and in their own way. But it also wasn't quiet like a museum or a library. There was a buzz of conversation and exchange that really had to be witnessed and experienced.
Given a similar space and resources, could we present a cultural exhibit in our own words, on our own terms, that was as vibrant and engaging?
At CTRL+ALT for example, they repurposed the space to accommodate a boxing ring that was more of a zone for a performance art display. What would it mean if we had a similar space for Muay Lao, as well as a stage for traditional Lao dancers and musicians as well as modern dancers and performers?
The question is compelling. We've sought to rebuild our culture since the end of the Laotian Civil War in 1975. As we head towards our 50th year in America in 2025, will we have progressed to a point where 10,000+ of us would gather together just to see what other Lao are doing artistically without it being a New Year's festival or a Buddhist boun or a music concert?
This is an intriguing question of culture shift we need. How might we gather if it's not for a wedding, a funeral, or a birthday? In any given year, how many times do we take time out to seek out interesting Lao-centered ideas in our community and build upon them?
In the meantime, take a look at "Notes from an Imagined Future" and we'll continue this discussion soon.