Boring! The Performative Invisibility and Non-theatricality of Asian Americans in Higher Education

Art objects occasionally perform an act of negation, some classic examples being Ce n’est pas une pipe (1929) by René Magritte and Le Vide (1958) by Yves Klein. The negation or lack of the object challenges the fundamental meaning of the subject’s gaze and complicates the relationship between the subject and object. Why does an object need to be negated, hidden, or erased in order to say something? What does the performative MIA (missing in action) tell us about the social and performance milieu? If the utterance of the missing object is not heard or cared for—that is, no one even notices its absence—does the object ever exist?

On the eve of the pandemic lockdown, two site-specific installation performances at the University of California, Irvine—Looking for an Asian American Play (February 11–12, 2020) and Viral Compassion (March 5, 2020)—sought to examine the performative (in)visibility—and to challenge the perception of (non)theatricality—of Asian Americans on university campuses. While in the United States in early 2020 COVID-19 was seen as an Asian virus “over there,” I became aware of the renewed scapegoating rhetoric and increasing violence against Asians and saw the urgency of creating these installation performances as a form of activism. “Theatre” on a college campus is an institution with specific spatial, temporal, ideological, and bureaucratic restrictions, functioning as a generally unwelcoming space for BIPOC artists as a result of Euro-American theatrical conventions. The general lack of AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) representation in university theatre curricula and performance seasons not only is detrimental to the growth of Asian American theatre, but also affects the general ecology of theatre. My purpose in producing these installation performances in public space therefore was to confront the general public with Asian American existence/absence by temporally occupying a common space.

Performativity and theatricality are interrelated in these two projects. In her Installation Art: Between Image and Stage, Anne Ring Petersen extensively discusses performativity and theatricality in installation performance. Performativity, she suggests, can be better understood by the German word hervorbringend, which Juliane Rebentisch used as a synonym for “performative.” Hervorbringen refers to the attempt to “bring out” (the intention of the artist) as well as “bring forth” (the viewer’s subjective interpretation).1 Claire Bishop describes the key characteristic of installation art as the experience of singular totality, which requires the viewers’ physical presence as well as their sensorial and embodied experience of both the space and the ensemble elements of the art.2 The performativity of an installation performance therefore depends on the viewers’ experience and interpretation. Theatricality, within the context of installation, can refer to the conscious staging, design, or choreography of the “scene,” or even “pathos-filled” artworks.3 Theatrical in design and content, the two works I discuss negotiate AAPI (non)theatricality through a dialectic and a performative process of engaging spectators.

Looking for an Asian American Play took place in multiple locations on the UC Irvine campus, between the Langson Library and the Gateway Study Center, as well as inside the library. Langson Library is a large, five-story research library; the Study Center is a building of similar size comprising study rooms and other institutional spaces. Outside of these two big buildings are benches, tables and chairs, wide steps, and large concrete railings that can all be used as staging areas. The passers-by did not seem to notice that a performance was about to take place.

The role of Professor (played by me) began by speaking to some students (actors and pedestrians): “Hello! Everyone! Attention, please. Today we are going to talk about Asian American plays . . .” Students (actors) interrupted her with various responses and questions:

“Do Asians write plays?”

“All the Asian people I know are doctors or engineers.”

“Do you mean . . . like Bruce Lee or Peking Opera?”

“Don’t you need to speak English?”

(Together) “Asian American theatre does not exist!”

A question was proposed by the crowd: “Where can we find Asian American plays?”

Professor responded by setting up a challenge: the spectators had ten minutes to locate a play—a single Asian American play or a play anthology. The winners would get a tasty lollipop. The crowd disappeared like the wind. Ten minutes passed and no one was able to complete the mission. Everyone was tired and puzzled. There were no Asian American plays in the library. The myth was confirmed—Asian American theatre does not exist!

Each person still got a lollipop for their labors.

Then a student (actor) “accidentally” discovered a play (FOB by David Henry Hwang) tucked in the nearby railing. He called everyone’s attention, and the crowd moved over to watch him perform a monologue from the play. One by one—on the bench, under the table, next to the stairs—Asian American plays were discovered and brief monologues or short scenes were performed. Spectators traveled with actors to witness the act of uncovering the texts, and Professor provided brief information on each play as if providing the labels or audio tours accompanying the artworks in museums. Short scenes were performed from FOBTeaKokoroM. ButterflyCleveland RainingEdith Can Shoot Things and Hit ThemHouse Rules or the Wrong Dude, and Chinglish—a sampler of Asian American plays over the span of thirty years. Within an hour, participating spectators traveled both through time and space, only to realize that Asian American theatre existed only outside of the institutional space and mainstream theatre—and it took great effort to uncover and legitimize its existence (fig. 1).


Figure 1. Minwoo Park in Looking for an Asian American Play. The building behind is the Gateway Study Center. (Photo: Author.)
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Figure 1.

Minwoo Park in Looking for an Asian American Play. The building behind is the Gateway Study Center. (Photo: Author.)

The traveling performance ended in the lobby of the library. Inside the lobby was the exhibit “Hidden in Plain Sight: Unveiling Asian American Theatre Tradition,” a display of all the Asian American plays from the library. I had worked with the research librarian for performing arts, Scott Stone, to pull all the Asian American plays from the stacks in advance, which explained the participants’ failure to complete their earlier task. Spectators were thrilled to see the uncovered treasure trove and began to examine the exhibit. However, is this laborious process necessary? Why is it possible for Asian American theatre to be “hidden in plain sight”? Did anyone even notice that all Asian American plays had been missing from the library shelves for ten days and from the drama production seasons for decades?4

This guerrilla-style performance was done twice, at lunch time and in the early evening to attract different crowds on February 11–12, 2020. The book exhibit lasted from January 31 to the end of February 2020. To call attention to the minoritarian knowledge in the canon, I had originally proposed to have small, pop-up style performances around the book stacks, or to have a performance in the lobby, an area often used for exhibits and lectures (such as for the UCI library’s treasure, Shakespeare’s First Folio); however, both proposals were rejected by the library. My third plan to use the areas adjacent to the library—the balcony/terrace and the entryway wide steps—was also turned down because we might “block traffic.”Part of the performance reflected my frustration with the denial of space for AAPI theatre on campus. Before inviting participants into the library to look for Asian American plays, we read aloud a set of invented rules, composed to emphasize the exclusion of AAPI theatre from the sacred institutional space: 

1. Quiet. Absolutely quiet.

2. No talking. Not even whispering.

3. No eating or drinking. No sipping on boba tea.

4. No cooking. Stir-frying is not permitted.

5. No frolicking. No loitering. No doodling. No performing.

Perhaps the rejection of our alternative performances from these spaces was because Asian Americans were not part of the university’s original masterplan. In 1959, UC Regents hired William Pereira to design both the new campus of UC Irvine and a city of 50,000 around the university, in what would become one of the most successful master-planned cities in the country. Enrollment opened in 1965.5 Both the Langson Library and the Gateway Study Center are parts of the eight original buildings that constituted the campus. Both buildings have Pereira’s signature Brutalist panel façade, which projects a modernist austere feeling, accentuating the sanctuary space of institutional knowledge in higher education (fig. 2).



Figure 2. The façade of Langson Library and the performance space of Looking for an Asian American Play. (Photo: Author.)
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Figure 2.

The façade of Langson Library and the performance space of Looking for an Asian American Play. (Photo: Author.)


The space between the library and the study center is one of the major pathways that connect the institutional side (instructional and bureaucratical space) and the idyllic side (a large green park) of the campus; it is also an area of continuous foot traffic. The constant movements of the pedestrians make this space transitional and liminal. Michel de Certeau writes about walking in the city: “To walk is to lack a place. It is the indefinite process of being absent and in search of a proper.”6 While the collective experience of lacking a space constitutes the city fabric, the walking and searching for Asian American plays in this installation constructs a stage of lack and a performance of alibi; in other words, the ecosystem of American theatre depends on the performative invisibility of Asian Americans. While there were multiple “singular totalities”7 of individuals during the course of Looking for an Asian American Play, it was also the collective work of the participants that made the installation performance take place. It was a mental, sensorial, and corporeal experience: confusion, insistence, and patience, physical fatigue of searching, traveling, acting, and watching, and finally a little sweetness on the tongue and the relief to see the “stash” of plays. Asian American theatre existed, here and there, only for a few minutes, and then everyone continued walking, performing this lack by relinquishing the place again. The transient nature of the performance accentuated the precarious existence of Asian American theatre.Historically, the Asian American experience is more than invisibility; it is an act of deliberate exclusion and erasure from national and institutional spaces. There have been key moments in US history that alternatingly have determined the inclusion and exclusion of the AAPI population in the country since the mid-nineteenth century: the active recruitment of Chinese laborers during the Gold Rush; a long period of Asian exclusion through legislation (the Page Act of 1875; the Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882–43; Japanese internment, 1942–45); the rebalancing of the racial map through the Immigration and Naturalization Act (1965); the settlement of Southeast Asian refugees and influx of immigrants as the result of the Vietnam War and political instability in the region in the 1970s, and the large growth of the Asian population during the past two decades, the most rapid growth—an 81 percent increase—among all ethnic groups.8 In California, according to the US 2020 Census, the AAPI population comprises 15.8–18.7 percent of the entire state.9 It seems absurd to speak of AAPI “invisibility” on the UCI campus, especially as an AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander–Serving Institution).10 Yet this is the new meaning of invisibility within the AAPI context: it is inclusion without integration, looking without recognition, taking space without taking place.

The exhibit “Hidden in Plain Sight” illuminated the ambiguous existence of Asian Americans: they are looked at but not seen; they are there but also not there; they are included in the institutional space, but their theatre does not have a place; their “not-thereness” is not even noticeable. The exhibit mainly consisted of a large bookcase with dozens of Asian American plays; with the back of the bookcase facing the library entrance, this installation was literally “hidden in plain sight.” The books were removed from the stacks ten days before the performance yet no one discovered the absence until we called attention to the lack. Since these displaced plays were still in circulation, a few inspired spectators decided to check out some of the books. Again, the emergence of Asian American theatre was transient. As plays were tucked away in students’ backpacks, the vacated bookshelf became a metaphorical stage of Asian American performative lack (fig. 3).

Racial affect, or the lack of it, is closely related to the desire and appetite for theatrical consumption. A racialized body is a theatrical body, unless it is deliberated neutralized and diluted of its affect. José Esteban Muñoz discusses “neutrality” as the white affect versus the “excess” of Latino affect: deviating from the white normative body, the racialized body is a monstrosity.11 Richard Fung cites a controversial study by psychologist Philippe Rushton in his article on sexuality, racism, and pornography: whereas whites are placed in the middle (norm) in terms of sexuality, virility, and reproduction, Blacks (excessive) and “Orientals” (insufficient) are placed on two opposite ends of the spectrum.12 A ten-year (2000–2010) study of racial minorities on primetime television confirms two things in the production and consumption of racialized taste at the popular level: the consistent portrayal of “excess” in Brown and Black bodies (that is, Latinx characters with heavy accents and African Americans with provocative outfits and aggressive attitudes), and the “lack” or absence of Asian bodies as a whole (Asian characters constitute under 2 percent of primetime television characters).13 I would argue that the lack of Asian American theatricalization in the twenty-first century is the residue of the model minority myth, which was first promoted in the 1960s. Within this mythos, Asian Americans were portrayed as a community with traditional values, self-reliance, and the work ethic and determination to succeed without accepting government assistance—a minority to be emulated by other racial groups.14 Model minority rhetoric erases individualities and represents AAPIs as a quiet, complacent, anonymous, off-white ethnicity—one that is trouble- and drama-free. After Proposition 209 (a repeal of Affirmative Action) was approved by California voters in 1996, racial diversity cannot be overtly considered for UC campus inclusion policies. All minority students therefore must compete fiercely in the neoliberal jungle of diversity in higher education. Some believe that the soaring number of AAPI students in recent years makes them appear as overrepresented and thus needing to be deminoritized.15 Unfortunately, deminoritized Asians do not pass as normative/white—or what Peggy Phelan calls “unremarkable”16—to those who control the definition of diversity and theatricality. Such a deminoritized model minority functions as a form of involuntary colonial mimicry: “almost the same, but not quite.”17

Beginning in the early nineteenth century, “Orientals” occupied a specific space of negative but fantastical theatricality, both onstage and off. The model minority myth de-theatricalized “Orientals” by turning them into an off-white image fading in the background for the greater good of the society. The adoption of realism by early Asian American playwrights further set up the tone of banality for Asian American theatre. What is there to see if there are no flying dragons or bound feet? Monstrosity is theatrical, unremarkable is normal, but the model minority is boring and thus deserves no drama. Invoking Asian nostalgia or tradition through the use of objects or movements therefore becomes a common theatrical trope to re-Orientalize the “boringness” of Asian American theatre. However, if Asian American stories are indeed plain and non-newsworthy, who cares if they disappear from the public view? What does it take to re-theatricalize Asian Americans in real life?

Figure 3. “Hidden in Plain Sight: Unveiling Asian American Theatre Tradition,” curated by Scott Stone, Langson Library. (Photo: Author.)
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Figure 3.

“Hidden in Plain Sight: Unveiling Asian American Theatre Tradition,” curated by Scott Stone, Langson Library. (Photo: Author.)


As early as the beginning of 2020, some of the AAPI population began to wear masks in public due to their access to Asian news media and familiarity with the custom (mask-wearing in the flu season is a collective courtesy in many Asian countries).18 As the general American public was slow to react to the pandemic, these masked Asians stood out: no longer off-white and harmless, their image stoked xenophobia because they called attention to their visible invisibility. Masking a face is like draping a piece of cloth over an artwork to make it inscrutable, and inscrutability in a pandemic is dangerous. Under this burgeoning milieu of hostility in 2020, I created a second installation titled Viral Compassion in hopes of “spreading” compassion—something that could be as viral as COVID-19 among students. To create this piece, I first held two forums so that students could discuss issues related to anti-Asian sentiments during the rising pandemic. I also collected index cards with anonymous writings about such issues. I constructed a gigantic “mask” out of a dull, light-green bedsheet (a perfect hospital color, I thought), which served as a blank canvas for the installation performance that would be mounted in the Arts Plaza on March 5, 2020. Volunteer students read aloud the contents of the cards, and one by one the read cards were attached to the mask canvas (fig. 4). After a brief discussion with the audience, we moved the finished mask display to the steel frame of the Claire Trevor Theatre, the largest theatre on campus. Extra blank cards and pens were provided so that more “performances” could be added to the installation over the next few days.

 Figure 4. Students were sitting on the whispering benches in Maya Lin Arts Plaza, having a brief discussion after the performance of Viral Compassion (March 5, 2020). (Photo: Author.)
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Figure 4.

Students were sitting on the whispering benches in Maya Lin Arts Plaza, having a brief discussion after the performance of Viral Compassion (March 5, 2020). (Photo: Author.)

The performance took place at lunch time in the Arts Plaza, a central congregating spot for UCI Arts students. It was a busy time during the day: students were chatting, laughing, eating lunch, some rehearsing their lines or showing off dance moves, some rushing to their next destination. After the mask backdrop was set up, I stood on the stone bench and used a gong to draw attention from the crowd. One by one the index cards were read aloud, mostly in English, some in Chinese, and one in Farsi. In stark contrast to the overall merriment of the Plaza, our performance revealed fear, anxiety, panic, worry, anger, confusion, and resentment—the range of sentiments uttered by the anonymous voices hidden behind the cards. It was like an undercurrent finding a crack on the earth’s surface and beginning to spill out, slowly wetting the ground around the crack with its content. The mood became more somber as more cards were read; some students were really surprised by the xenophobia felt by many AAPI students on this “Asian” campus.

Many cards expressed anger and frustration:

“Stop staring at people when they put on their masks!”

“Fight against Virus, not Chinese.”

“Many foreigners call it ‘Chinese virus.’ Large-scaled ‘anti-Chinese violent activities’ started.

. . . Now what we need to fight against is not only virus” (in Chinese).

“[While waiting in line in Disneyland for a ride] A lady (and her kids) behind me was literally two meters away from me and my friend. I understand her reasons. I know. I look Asian. I spoke Asian. . . . I appreciated that they did not do or say anything other than physically stay extremely far away from me, but I still felt hurt. I AM NOT VIRUS.”

“[Overhearing a high school student on the street] Out of fear, a group of Caucasian students have to stop breathing as they walk pass a group of international students.”

“Ignorance > virus”

(in Chinese). 

Some expressed extreme anxiety:

“I’ve been checking the news, as soon as I wake up, when I brush my teeth, when I microwave my breakfast, between classes, during my lunch break, when I walk to the parking lot, when I sit on the toilet, before I go to sleep.”

Some tried to remind people of being sensible:

“[T]hey [the masked people] are not gang or terrorist or trying to hide something. They might just have allergy or a small cold. . . . They are not virus! They put on masks to be nice and polite to others. They put on masks to protect themselves and most importantly, to protect You. So stop staring. This is not only a cultural thing, but something about manner, hygiene, and sanitary! [sic]”

“I used to think coronavirus was overblown, but there have been more and more cases nearby. I hope this doesn’t lead to intensifying racism toward Chinese.”

“People forget that everyone has the possibility to be a potential spreader”

(in Chinese).

Some worried about family back in China:

“I have a box of new and clean facial masks, 100 counts of them. They [family in China] are recycling old used masks in order to be allowed to get out of the apartment for some daily supplies. I wish I could send them mine so that they wouldn’t need to wait for the masks to dry off under the sun. But the city is under lockdown. Nothing is entering or leaving the place.” 

“Every morning I receive messages from elder family members, even from friends’ moms, asking me how I am doing. I always answer, ‘Fine, fine. No worries.’ Actually, every day I am very worried, but I’m afraid of showing it to my family. Hope the pandemic will get better soon”

(in Chinese).

Some expressed humor:

“Yesterday I went to the supermarket to buy a lot of food, so that I will have food when I’m isolated. But, I ate more than half last night☺” (in Chinese).

“The biggest wish of my family and friends [in China] is to eat something yummy in a restaurant” (in Chinese).

“My friend bought a projector to watch movies in the spring break. . . . I also want to spend the whole spring break watching movies. With Corona Virus as an excuse, no one will accuse me being an introvert☺”

(in Chinese)

Some expressed negative feelings toward calling attention to xenophobia and pandemic in general:

“Is this all an overreaction? I’m not sure how to react. I’d like to just ignore it. I am finishing my masters research and if this gets in the way I will be very upset.”

A few days after the performance, the university (and the whole nation) shifted to emergency mode and the UCI campus was shut down. Nearly everyone evacuated from their campus space by spring break. On March 19, STOP AAPI HATE was launched by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council so that anyone could report anti-Asian hate incidents.19 Within a week, 673 reports of COVID-19 related anti-Asian discrimination and violence were recorded.20 In October 2020, the Anti-Defamation League reported that, after Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19, there was “an 85 percent increase in anti-Asian rhetoric and conspiracy theories on the [social media] platform in the 12 hours following the announcement, many blaming China.”21 A year after our performance, in March 2021, the Atlanta spa shooting occurred, and six Asian women were among the eight victims.22 As we went deeper into the pandemic compassion did not catch on, but anti-Asian violence went viral and became deadly. Asian Americans finally occupied a space on mainstream media, but at what cost?

Like Looking for an Asian American Play, the installation and performance site for Viral Compassion was strategically chosen. The School of Arts, located at the outskirts of the main UCI campus is easily “hidden from plain sight”; however, the Arts Plaza serves as a transitional and liminal space, filtering a large flow of pedestrians to and from a large parking garage and the main campus. In 2005, the Arts Plaza was redesigned by the (in)famous architect Maya Lin and renamed as Maya Lin Plaza.23 In the 1980s and ’90s, the campus had invited famous architects such as James Stirling, Michael Wilford, and Frank Gehry to create buildings distinctive from Pereira’s original Brutalist design, and Lin represented a younger generation of distinguished architects.24 Along with her signature design of a black-granite water table as the focal point, there are also long black-granite whispering benches and features to provide sensory stimulation through technical devices (sight and sound) and from herbs and fruit trees (smell and taste).25 Against the surrounding commotion and big buildings, the black-granite water table and benches lie low and quiet, unassuming and whispering, humbly welcoming passers-by to sit down and reflect.

The original campus masterplan included all the current disciplines of the School of Arts—dance, drama, music, and visual art; however, the distant location of the School of Arts encouraged marginalized inclusion instead of integration. In 2000, the School of Arts was renamed after the Academy Award–winning actress Claire Trevor (1910–2000), a patron who frequented student rehearsals and performances in her later years. Her stepsons, Peter and Donald Bren, donated $10 million to the school.26 Starring in John Ford’s Stagecoach and the film noir Key Largo, Trevor is the ultimate symbol of the American entertainment industry. With her award trophies featured in the display windows of the theatre (as well as the facelift of the original Village Theatre and its renaming to Claire Trevor Theatre), the (white) American gaze that dominates Hollywood and Broadway gives its blessing (and curse) to the school. AAPI students, however, do not see themselves represented theatrically under Trevor’s watch, similar to the multicultural stories missing from the mainstream theatre and media. Could Lin’s design be a visual reminder of AAPIs’ invisibility? Her fame and high price unfortunately did not bring a highly anticipated spectacle; her casual attitude and subdued design were a disappointment for some.27 The black-granite water table and benches—a common feature of her designs—did not dramatically transform the space as some people had hoped.28 Such comments on her non-theatrical design echoes the critique of her Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The performative non-theatricality and quietness in Lin’s design reinstates the ontological doubt of Asian American theatre: Do Asian American and Pacific Islanders have the right to tell their boring stories?

March 2020: It was windy and the ground was still wet from the earlier rain. Ten days after the performance, I quietly took down the mask installation. The campus was empty as the COVID-mandated evacuation had already started. Some index cards curled up from the wind, and some writings became blurry by rain stains. Although I had witnessed some pedestrians stopping in front of the mask to read the cards, and a few cards had been added to prolong the performance, the deteriorating forces of nature made the weathered installation look fatigued and lonely, accentuating the unfitness of the installation against the shining steel frame named for Trevor (fig. 5).

Figure 5. The “weathered” installation of Viral Compassion outside of Claire Trevor Theatre. The small display windows on either side of the glass display case are for the award statuettes of Claire Trevor. (Photo: Author.)
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Figure 5.

The “weathered” installation of Viral Compassion outside of Claire Trevor Theatre. The small display windows on either side of the glass display case are for the award statuettes of Claire Trevor. (Photo: Author.)


Both Looking for an Asian American Play and Viral Compassion attempted to insert a minoritarian AAPI space on the majoritarian map of the UCI campus, calling attention to performative lack and erasure of the “model minority.” While the first piece uncovered the hidden, the latter accentuated the covering/partial-hiddenness of Asian American identity; both pieces advocate for AAPIs’ right to exist and to be visible, despite their lack of “Oriental” spectacle. The performative non-theatricality and invisibility of AAPIs interrogates the validity of institutional space, which depends on the absence of certain ethnicities and calls for a reimagined and redesigned map of true inclusion and integration in higher education. Boring or not, AAPIs deserve an equal spotlight because we are here. 


1. Anne Ring Petersen, Installation Art: Between Image and Stage (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2015), 243.

2. Claire Bishop, Installation Art: A Critical History (London: TATE Publishing, 2005), 6.

3. Petersen, Installation Art, 247.

4. Philip Kan Gotanda’s I Dream of Chang and Eng (2017) was the first and only UCI mainstage production that involved major Asian characters (not ensemble or minor characters through color-blind casting), since the founding of the department in 1965. For background on this historic production and Asian American dramaturgy, see Daphne P. Lei, “Off-Yellow Time vs Off-White Space: Activist Asian American Dramaturgy in Higher Education,” Journal of American Drama and Theatre 34, no. 2 (2022).

5. It is unlikely that the AAPI population was significant in the initial planning stage (1959–65) based on a few factors: the larger Asian immigration in the twentieth century started after immigration reform in 1965; the preliminary plan for the first academic year (1965–66) only had English, French, and German programs; and the department of East Asian Languages and Literature was not established until the 1980s (see “Preliminary Announcement: University of California, Irvine Academic Program 1965–1966,” available at The city of Irvine was not incorporated into the US Census until 1980, and the earliest census of the Asian population in Irvine was 7.7 percent in that year (see Nancy Cleelan, “Irvine Grows as Chinese Gateway,” Los Angeles Times, December 7, 1998, available at Today’s Asian population in Irvine is 43.1 percent according to “World Population Review” (

6. Michel de Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendhall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 103.

7. Bishop, Installation Art, 6.

8. Pew Research Center, “Asian Americans Are the Fastest Growing Racial or Ethnic Group in the US,” available at

9. US Census Bureau, “California Remained Most Populous State but Growth Slowed Last Decade,” “California: Census 2020,” available at (15.4 percent is the AAPI population “alone,” and 17.8 percent is the AAPI population “alone or in combination” [including mixed race]).

10. In order to qualify for AANAPISI status, a university needs to have at least 10 percent enrollment of AAPI undergraduate students. indicates 37 percent of the student population at UCI is Asian; however, it does not include international students or mixed-race students. See

11. José Esteban Muñoz, “Feeling Brown: Ethnicity and Affect in Ricardo Bracho’s ‘The Sweetest Hangover (and Other STDs),’” Theatre Journal 52, no. 1 (2000): 67–79.

12. Richard Fung, “Looking for My Penis: The Eroticized Asian in Gay Video Porn,” in How Do I Look? Queer Film and Video, ed. Bad Object-choices (Seattle: Bay Press, 1991), 145–68.

13. Elizabeth Monk-Turner, Mary Heiserman, Crystle Johnson, Vanity Cotton, and Manny Jackson, “The Portrayal of Racial Minorities on Prime Time Television: A Replication of the Mastro and Greenberg Study a Decade Later,” Studies in Popular Culture 32, no. 2 (2010): 101–14.

14. See “Success Story of One Minority Group in U.S.,” US. News and World Report (December 26, 1966), in Amy Tachiki et al., eds., Roots: An Asian American Reader (Los Angeles: Continental Graphics, 1971), 6–9.

15. Sharon Lee, “Over-Represented and De-Minoritized: The Racialization of Asian Americans in Higher Education,” InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies 2, no. 2 (2006): 1–16.

16. Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (New York: Routledge, 1993).

17. Homi K. Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse,” in The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 85–92.

18. For a comprehensive study on masking and anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 outbreak, see Hee An Choi and Othelia EunKyoung Lee, “To Mask or to Unmask, That Is the Question: Facemasks and Anti-Asian Violence during COVID-19,” Journal of Human Rights and Social Work 6, no. 3 (2021): 237–45, available at

19. See

20. See the report of the first week (March 25, 2020), available at

21. Kimmy Yan, “After Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis, anti-Asian Tweets and Conspiracies Rose 50 percent,” NBC News (October 15, 2020), available at

22. “Eight Dead in Atlanta Spa Shootings, with Fears of Anti-Asian Bias.” New York Times, March 17, 2021, available at

23. Maya Lin’s infamy resulted from her design of the Vietnam Memorial. Instead of glorifying the war with familiar grandiose sculptures of war heroism, her bleak design consists of black-granite walls sunken into the ground featuring carved names of lost lives of the war, like a “wound that is closed and healing,” said Lin. Her way of memorializing the war was seen as controversial at that time. Her age and elite education (a 21-year-old Yale student), ethnicity (Chinese American), and vehement defense of her art all made her more infamous. See “This 21-Year-Old College Student Designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Maya Lin Won a Design Competition—and Sparked a National Controversy,” available at

24. Mike Anton, “Some See UCI’s Arts Project as Overdue,” Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2004, available at

25. For some details of her design, see “Arts Plaza by Maya Lin Comes to Focus,” UCI Arts Quarterly, spring 2004, available at; Zachary Gale, “Water Table to Be Focal Point of New Arts Plaza,” New University, May 16, 2005, available at; and Christopher Hawthorne, “Maya Lin Creates a Plaza of Possibility,” Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2005, available at

26. See

27. I attended the inauguration ceremony when Maya Lin was present. She confirmed that the initial idea of her Vietnam Veterans Memorial design occurred at the dinner table, on a plate of mashed potatoes. When asked about the significance of the curved line on the water table, she said it was just a simple line she casually drew.

28. See