Brian Droitcour and Christine Wong Yap, The People's Guide to the Queens International, 2018. Participatory installation and events. Courtesy of the artists.
Brian Droitcour and Christine Wong Yap, The People's Guide to the Queens International, 2018. Participatory installation and events. Courtesy of the artists.
Brian Droitcour and Christine Wong Yap, The People's Guide to the Queens International, 2018. Participatory installation and events. Courtesy of the artists.
Brian Droitcour and Christine Wong Yap, The People's Guide to the Queens International, 2018. Participatory installation and events. Courtesy of the artists.
Brian Droitcour and Christine Wong Yap, The People's Guide to the Queens International, 2018. Participatory installation and events. Courtesy of the artists.
Brian Droitcour and Christine Wong Yap, The People's Guide to the Queens International, 2018. Participatory installation and events. Courtesy of the artists.
Christine Wong Yap
Initially, QI 2018 curators Sophia Marisa Lucas and Baseera Khan saw an opportunity for Brian Droitcour and I to collaborate. We'd both proposed participatory projects at Queens public libraries (though our project will be primarily sited at the museum, with auxiliary components at libraries).

Brian had proposed a series of writing workshops stemming from his longtime interest in vernacular criticism. Through our conversations, it became clear that my skills and experience with participatory art projects would be welcome contributions. And as a project co-organizer, I was very excited to help conceptually frame our project website as The People's Guide to the Queens International, highlighting a spirit of people power, access, open-mindedness, generosity, and inclusion.
I'm a project-based artist whose work has explored positive psychology and psychological wellbeing for many years. I started out with an interest in optimism and pessimism, which led me to Martin Seligman's work on optimism as a learned skill. This brought me to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's books on creativity and flow, which have been major influences on my perspectives on life and art making. For Csikszentmihalyi, "The quality of life is determined by the quality of consciousness." This begs the questions: "What do we pay attention to? How well do we pay attention?" My work shifted towards participatory projects to make spaces for self-reflection, emotional intelligence, interdependence, and social connection.

While this project focuses on art writing—rather than explicitly on dimensions of wellbeing—and it is not my goal to prescribe or treat, I enjoy thinking about the potential benefits of participation, which all relate to agency. First, I am committed to creative activity and sensorial experiences as bulwarks against detached, attention-fracturing, digital living. Second, I believe that the traditional, passive art-viewing experience ("What is the artist saying?") could be productively displaced with an active experience of inquiry and co-creation ("What is the nature of the interaction between this artwork and my thoughts, feelings, and experiences?"). Third, I believe in pluralism. In terms of diversity, museums have a lot of room for improvement.

Last year, I created Belonging, a participatory project exploring inclusion and connectedness to place. I see "belonging" working in tandem with visibility and authenticity: to belong is to be yourself, vulnerable, accepted, and welcomed. In The People's Guide to the Queens International, we'll explore and hopefully expand whose voices are welcomed, and who feels they belong, in museums.
The volumes I am most interested in are the internal space of the self, and the shared spaces formed by social relations. In my practice, when I begin a new project, I like to identify an emotional core—a specific emotion or internal experience that I want participants and audiences to pick up on. I create activities or interactions to stimulate or enact that sensibility. I hope to make space for individuals' relationships to themselves (time for self-reflection and self-knowledge) and relationships between individuals (fortifying intentional values or relations in shared spaces). I hope an invigorating DIY energy will come through in The People's Guide.

With this project, "'volumes"' can also mean sequential publications, like our series of 'zines containing contributed reviews of the artworks in Queens International. We'll also collect all the reviews on the website. I hope to see The People's Guide to the Queens International be a chorus of diverse voices and approaches to art viewing.

Lastly, we are also working in the different spaces of the museum and the libraries. Libraries succeed in creating a sense of public ownership that I don't typically find in museums. I'm curious to see how placing contemporary artworks in the libraries shifts the audience base, the aesthetic encounter, and the nature of participation and critical discourse.
Christine Wong Yap (b. 1977, San Francisco Bay Area, CA) received an MFA (2007) and a BFA (1998) from California College of the Arts. Wong has been awarded grants from the Queens Council on the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, and the Center for Cultural Innovation. She has exhibited internationally, in solo shows at The Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR (2015); Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, UK (2012); and in group exhibitions at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY (2015); Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2012); and the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco, CA (2010); among others. She has been an artist in residence at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory (2017); Little Paper Planes, (2017); Kala Art Institute (2016); the Center for Book Arts (2016); Harvester Arts (2015); c3:initiative (2015); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (2015); Tides Institute and Museum of Art (2013); Montalvo Arts Center (2012); Woodstock Byrdcliffe (2011); the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (2009); and the Headlands Center for the Arts (2009). She lives and works in Astoria, Queens.
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