SOUVENIRS: Montalvo Historical Fabrications & Souvenirs
Senator James Phelan’s reelection campaign posters in 1920 contained the headline "Keep California White." He vehemently opposed immigration from Asia, and favored the segregation and disenfranchisement of peoples of color already here. He cut his political eyeteeth on anti-Chinese rhetoric's and, in 1912, wrote that "This is a whiteman's country ... We cannot make a homogeneous population out of people who do not blend with the Caucasian race"(1). Today, according to the 2010 US Census, there are 4.9 million Asians and Asian Americans in California, comprising 13% of the State’s population.
(1) Robert Cherny, excerpted from "CITY COMMERCIAL, CITY BEAUTIFUL, CITY PRACTICAL: The San Francisco Visions Of William C. Ralston, James D. Phelan, And Michael M. O'Shaughnessy," originally published in California History magazine, Fall 1994
For two months we activated the gallery space, working four days a week on new products labeled with re-examined stories.
Located at the Montalvo Arts Center, a historical site at Villa Montalvo, California, this project presents to the public a souvenir shop that is a "front" for re-examining the complex issues of commerce, empire, and the repackaging of historical narrative. Rough-hewn display tables hold an array of strange and contradictory products such as bottled water ("Hetch-Hetchy Elixir"), false precious stones ("Genuine Faux Fool's Gold"), as well as salvaged remnants of other artists artworks. Viewers are able to peer through and walk around the lattice-like sales counter made of recycled pallets, to see the production space where everything is explicitly made.