Creative Minds | Tamiko Thiel and Zara Houshmand with Susan Hayase
"Then as now, the crisis was real...Now as then, we fear the new laws being passed by our leaders today...could we repeat the errors of World War II and imperil civil liberties in our country?"
–Artists Tamiko Thiel and Zara Houshmand in a statement after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Created almost 20 years ago, Beyond Manzanar – on view this fall as part of Almost Human: Digital Art from the Permanent Collection – is an immersive, virtual reality artwork that, viewed today, invites reflection about the lessons learned after the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. What does "Beyond" mean now? When artists Thiel and Houshmand created "Beyond Manzanar" in 2000, they made the connection between the racial profiling and scapegoating that led to mass violations of Japanese Americans' rights and the similar fear and hate-mongering aimed at Iranian Americans during the "Iranian Hostage Crisis" (November 1979 to January 1981). Now--with increasing tensions between the current administration and the Iranian government, the exposé of the abuse of immigrant and asylum seekers at our nation's borders, and the ongoing "Muslim Ban"-- Thiel and Houshmand's piece has the power to bring these questions to a new generation through an immersive experience. The artists will be joined by San José-based Japanese American activist Susan Hayase, who served as the Vice Chair of the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund Board, established by the U.S. Congress through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 to promote education and lessons learned from the Japanese American mass incarceration.