A compendium of writings, art and ephemera from the 1990s New York collective that fostered a social space for and encouraged critical engagement with diasporic Asian artists who, at the time, were being given short shrift in the larger art world.
The structure of the book, built around sections titled by year, is a direct nod to Godzilla’s concern with timely action, genealogy, and archiving ... the most revealing portions of the book do not concern outward-facing actions, but the members’ self-scrutiny and reflection. A 1993 newsletter featured vivid, often opposing, answers to a questionnaire about Asian Pacific American group shows ... Throughout the book are multiple astute voices worthy, as the preface suggests, of some 'future companion publication.' But their brilliance is always laced with a tenderness for their friends and community ... The newsletter issue featuring the letter to the Whitney Museum also contains a tribute to Lin Lin, a Chinese artist who was shot and killed on the street; following it, an obituary for artist Win Ng, written by Ken Chu, merits study as a finely written cultural artifact, examining the lesser-known community of queer Asian American artists of that time.
An inspiring new book ... Dot-matrix printouts and vintage Mac fonts abound, and the newsletter echoes the scrapbook-y style of the zine culture of the time. Arranged chronologically and roughly divided into sections by year, the book provides copious documentation of how Godzilla grew in size and impact, long before the days of social media ... meetings, meticulously documented in the minutes reprinted in the book, underscore how directed Godzilla was from the start, and how quickly the membership expanded.
... you get a snapshot of the existential anxiety in trying to build an organization around a term like 'Asian American': Who does it apply to? Is there enough shared experience to mobilize under it? The doubt comes off as productive self-criticality, which pleasurably erodes the sureness with which that term gets thrown around today ... meeting agendas (meticulous or scattershot), taken over the course of a decade, compose the core of this anthology. There are also posters, installation photographs, flyers, articles, reviews, and exhibition ephemera. Each of these documents is reprinted in its original format, preserving much of its charm and submerging the reader in the era’s visual language. You get a feel for Godzilla’s shifting ideas and the cobbled-together nature of their resources as the typography, logos, and letterheads change—sometimes abruptly—over time. What comes through most immediately is the fact that Godzilla were friends who just decided to take each other seriously ... not only a history of a movement, and of a style of institutional critique, but also of the ongoing amnesia of large arts organizations. Ultimately, Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network 1990–2001 reads as a cross between an art object, a manual, and a case study on radical institution building.