August 21, 2020
Artist and educator Michele Jaquis hosted her socially engaged documentary series, We Are All Americans, as part of an Action Project at ICA LA. Participants pre-registered for one-hour time slots to record a podcast session on-site. ICA LA implemented safe social distancing protocols and provided participant with masks, gloves, face shields, and hand sanitizer. We Are All Americans is a podcast series created by Jaquis in 2018.
Inspired by her family’s narrative, Michele Jaquis started an oral history project to explore conversations about American identity and intergenerational histories in the context of “multiculturalism, immigration, military service, black lives matter, white privilege, and indigeneity.” We Are All Americans seeks to combat xenophobia by showcasing the complexities and intersectionality of its participants. In conversation with Michele, whose background exemplifies the multifaceted nature of American identity, the interviewees introduced themselves, shared stories of immigrating and living in the U.S., and attempted to define what it means to be American.
Out of the five time slots available, Michele recorded four groups and also the Director of Learning and Engagement at ICA LA, Asuka Hisa. One group represented three generations: a grandmother, her daughter, and her granddaughter; the grandmother immigrated to the U.S. from India and her daughter and granddaughter were born in the U.S. Adding levity to the discussion, the daughter introduced herself as future President of the United States and highlighted the significance of Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Kamala Harris being half Southeast Asian. Discussing their family experience in the context of political and social events demonstrated exactly what Michele’s podcast series seeks to illuminate: multigenerational and transnational narratives that both celebrate and recognize the complexity of the term “American,” considering all nations in the Americas.
For Michele, Field Workshop: Action Projects provided several hours of uninterrupted time to focus on her artistic practice, outside of her responsibilities as a professor and academic administrator at Otis College of Art and Design. We Are All Americans will continue as a project leading up to this year’s election. During this moment of multiple pandemics – health, racial, and economic – we must acknowledge one another as human, as being from the same human race. We Are All Americans situates quotidian details of American life because immigrant narratives are dense strands of the American cultural fabric.
Special thanks to Michele Jaquis for choosing ICA LA as a host for We Are All Americans recording sessions and for highlighting important oral histories through ICA LA’s Field Workshop: Action Projects.
— Habiba Hopson, 2020 Getty Marrow Intern, ICA LA