Watermarks of the Last Chinatown

An interactive public memorial and augmented reality experience focused on Santa Cruz's Chinatown by Huy Truong, Susana Ruiz, and Karen Tei Yamashita.

Artboard 1

May 10–26, 2024

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To be announced

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Part of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions in Media Arts, the MAH is pleased to announce a new project in collaboration with local artists Huy Truong, Susana Ruiz, and Karen Tei Yamashita related to the history of Santa Cruz Chinatowns.

Watermarks of the Last Chinatown
is an interactive public memorial in the form of a site-specific augmented reality experience that speaks to the rich narrative landscape of Santa Cruz through the lens of historical erasure with a focus on its last Chinatown. The project includes interviews with community members, historical photographs, virtual recreations, and a performative interpretation of an original story by Yamashita. The work incorporates documentary, holographic film, and gameplay and is experienced on mobile devices at historically important sites in downtown Santa Cruz to render visible the lives, legacies, and labors of those who lived there.

As part of the project, Truong and Ruiz worked closely with a number of history-makers and leaders in the Santa Cruz AAPI community, including George Ow Jr., an elder and one of the last residents with memories of living in the last Chinatown. As Ow explains, Chinatown may have been a ghetto, but it was also a haven not only for the Chinese but for Black people, Mexican people, Filipino people, and other groups for whom it wasn’t safe or legal to live elsewhere in Santa Cruz. Thus, Chinatown in Santa Cruz and Chinatowns across the country were not a space solely devoted to marginalization, but a place where Chinese culture and traditions could be preserved and passed down from generation to generation, as well as revised and transformed in diasporic and multicultural contexts.

Watermarks of the Last Chinatown
will have its public premiere in Santa Cruz from May 10-26, 2024. Please stop by the MAH during public hours to pick up a map and instructions on how to access the artwork on your mobile phone as an app, and then cross the street to the former site of Santa Cruz's last Chinatown to begin experiencing the work.

Presented in partnership with the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and funded by the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, a program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Additional project support is provided by the Arts Research Institute (ARI) at UC Santa Cruz and the Committee on Research (COR) at UC Santa Cruz.

Header image: An image of Georgina Wong and George Ow Jr (1942) overlaid on a digital model of Chinatown, rending courtesy the artists and photo courtesy the estate of George Lee.

Meet the Artists

Huy Truong 01

Artist

Huy Truong

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Susana Ruiz

Artist

Susana Ruiz

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KT Yamashita Chris Hardy Photography

Artist

Karen Tei Yamashita

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Gallery

Santa Cruz Chinatown, 1941, photo courtesy the estate of George Lee.

Digital reconstruction of the last Santa Cruz Chinatown, rendering courtesy the artists.

Yee Hen Bok preparing lunch in Santa Cruz Chinatown, 1941, photo courtesy the estate of George Lee.

Artists Susana Ruiz, Karen Tei Yamashita, and Huy Truong, photo courtesy the artists.

Gue Shee Lee with her children in Santa Cruz Chinatown, 1931, photo by Alice Halsey, courtesy the estate of George Lee.

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