Words by Sunhi Keller.
A black and yellow cover emblazoned with the words F-ing Good Provocation dares people to look inside this zine, to engage with it either online or in print. The vibrant colors are loud, bold, eye-catching and well, provocative. F-ing Good Provocation created by independent dance artist Jane Chan, designed by Lan Le, and illustrated by Chan and Makiko Ayoama is a response to the COVID pandemic and the uprise in worldwide violence against people of the Asian diaspora. Chan, herself provoked by the injustices, disparities and violence East and Southeast Asian artists face in today’s climate, wanted in turn to provoke readers, challenging them to listen, learn and reflect on how racism is embedded in our world, our culture and our language.
Chan begins the provocation by introducing herself and the aims of the magazine, which is split into four parts: Personal experiences in relation to the wider society; Safety/Precarity; Access to arts and the value of arts; and Forward looking and imaginings. Each of the sections includes a “Call to Action” category, which reflects on how we can work to impact our communities.
In researching and developing her project, Chan interviewed twenty Asian dance artists on their working experiences. While the twenty artists are credited, they are simply identified as Artist One through to Artist Twenty; the relation between them and their words are kept anonymous. In the interviews, Chan facilitates an active conversation between herself and the twenty artists, reflecting not only on their specific experiences, but also her own, and the experiences shared between them all.
F-ing Good Provocation is a platform which enriches the voices of Asian artists and calls into question the art world as we know it today. How can we listen and learn from others? How can we keep pushing for more change, working to create an arts landscape that is provocative as well as supportive, enriching and welcoming?
With F-ing Good Provocation, Chan has created a safe space, built on empathy and anti-racist practices. As a dance artist with Asian heritage myself, I found solace and hope in the work Chan – and the twenty other artists represented in this provocation – are doing. Their work and words impacted and inspired me in a multitude of ways, and I look forward to what Chan will do with this platform next. As Chan says in this issue: “The coming together of the artists has reaffirmed my belief that we are here and are profoundly alive…One thing that has been achingly clear is that we matter, today and always” (Chan, F-ing Good Provocation, 23). F-ing Good Provocation affirms, for all artists, the value of creative work, and reminds every one of us that art can make a difference.