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WINTER 2020 VOL. 1 ISSUE 8 | JAN 9, 2021

 
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THE LAST ONE (FOR NOW)

We launched our inaugural season of DIS-ORIENT on the weekend following Election Day and we are concluding our season on the weekend following the day we flipped the senate blue, and Domestic Terrorists attacked the Capital. This year... has been... a lot. On both macro and micro levels, we have lost so much. Friends, family, and elders, hopes and dreams for high school proms and international getaways, innocence, the illusion of safety. But there is also so much that is beginning to unfold. I often tell my friends that the healing process is like Marie Kondo-ing your closet: before you can get to the clarity of the purge, you first find yourself sitting in an endless pile of your own shit, regretting the decision to open drawers that maybe were best left closed. That's where we are now—sitting in our own shit, longing for the chaos to be over.

But even in stillness, there is movement.

As Queer Asian folx, self-hatred is ingrained in us. Feelings of unworthiness and shame are so much more accessible than self-love and joy. Queer Asian Social Club and DIS-ORIENT were born from the desire to change this—to give our community spaces to unravel our darkness to make room for the light, to share our stories so that we may have the experience of being both seen and also reflected. This is a gift to our community, but this is also a gift to ourselves.

We are so beyond grateful for all of the amazing contributors to our first season of DIS-ORIENT. It has been an honor to hold the warmth, lessons, and humanity of your stories. A huge thank you to the whole QASC team for all your love, support, and giggles on this experimental endeavor.

In our final issue of Season 1 of DIS-ORIENT, we are featuring "The Blackpink Revolution: The Trojan Horse of K-Pop" by me, Jamie Lew, "Filipinx" by Jensen Reyes, "Reprogramming the Matrix" by Courtney Xin, a final Celestial Reading by Ian Simmons-Francisco, and illustrations by Dean

Somewhere in this mess of the human experience are the hopes and dreams of our baby selves, safe and sound and awaiting our courageous return. We are on our way back now. 

WITH LOVE, 

JAMIE LEW & THE QASC TEAM:

MAYA REDDY, LEO ALYASHAAKAMANI SUTRA, & DEAN

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IMAGE DESCRIPTION:

A GIF of the four Blackpink members sitting stoically as a thick pink smoke explodes behind them. Vintage Korean photos and art are collaged behind the GIF.

 

As a Korean girl growing up in America, I had preferred Britney Spears to BoA like I had preferred mac & cheese to 잡채 (Japchae). I don't believe in regrets, but I do have a lot of sadness for how much I had hated my Korean identity in my early life. Between the allure of white idolization and my parents' refusal to reminisce about the country they had fled from, there is much I don't know about where I come from.

 

I first encountered Blackpink through a YouTube suggestion for the "뚜두뚜두 (Ddu-Du Ddu-Du)" music video. At the time, I couldn't pinpoint my gravitation to the group, but over the next few years I came to be a certified Blink—a big deal for someone who has always held a quiet disdain (AKA internalized racism) towards K-pop. The further I dove into the world of Blackpink, the more I realized that there is a deeper narrative buried within the bass drops.

 

In this article, I will be deconstructing this deeper narrative of Blackpink through an analysis of their 2020 music video for "How You Like That." I argue that this music video is a visual allegory of the Korean experience—the lineage of trauma, the lingering warfare in the Korean heart and mind, the aftermath of diaspora. K-pop has a reputation for being formulaic and trivial—a South Korean export of bread & circuses. It's a reputation that's easy to confirm on the surface level—bubblegum melodies meet overly-saturated, "random" music video visuals—and yet, this expectation has blinded us from a revolution that has been unfolding before our very eyes.

 

It is important to note that besides the four main idols of the group (Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa, and Rosé), there are two additional artists who have been influencing Blackpink's content from behind-the-scenes: music video director 서현승 (Seo Hyun-Seung) and producer Teddy Park. All but two of Blackpink's music videos have been directed by Seo, and Teddy has touched all of Blackpink's music, having written and produced all of their chart-smashing singles. It is difficult to find too much information on either of these artists, but it clear that they have been working through complex questions in their respective breadths of work in the field of K-pop (a few of which I reference within this article).

 

K-pop is indeed an industry within a capitalistic society, but when considered as "Korean popular culture," K-pop is also art for and by the Korean people. I do not argue that any of the points I make below were conscious intentions by the artists involved (though perhaps many of them were). Rather, I argue that through the medium of Blackpink and K-pop, artists have been dissecting their own internal turmoils regarding sexism, racism, and classism, releasing traumas, and re-imagining brighter futures. There is a domino effect on how this plays out on a global scale, as the culture we consume effects our perceptions of each other and the world around us.

What if... Blackpink really is the revolution?

 

"Look at me, now look at you... how you like that."

 

Let's begin.

 

"AGAIN IN THIS DARK PLACE, LIGHT UP THE SKY"

As the first verse begins, we cut to solo shots of Jennie, Rosé, and Jisoo. They each are breaking free from their individual imprisonments—a bright light bursting through the concrete walls, carrying the hope of new life. There is a sense of patient and isolated rumination that has lead up to this moment, as if there has been ample time to plot one's revenge. This "underground bunker" motif can be seen in many of Seo's videos, including in G-Dragon's "쿠데타 (Coup d'Etat)" and Blackpink's "뚜두뚜두 (Ddu-Du Ddu-Du)."

G-DRAGON "쿠데타 (COUP D'ETAT)"

BLACKPINK "뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)"

THE NAÏVETY OF PARADISE

Seo frequently frames the members of Blackpink in tableaus that depict them as Divine Goddesses, placing them in fields of foliage and flowers—a paradise on earth that seems both warmly nostalgic and wildly unattainable. As Jisoo lowers her "blindfold of flowers" we are reminded of the naïvety of paradise: it was our innocence that made us so vulnerable.

JISOO IN "LOVESICK GIRLS"

ROSÉ IN "뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)"

WARFARE IN THE KOREAN HEART AND MIND

Rosé literally puts her feminine powers to rest as her body lowers down in a casket of flowers. "Laugh all you want while you still can / Because it's about to be your turn," she sings as she suddenly pulls a black ski-mask over her face, and a mechanical sound effect builds into an explosion. The black ski-mask invokes a specific type of violence, the gun-powder gray area that exists between army battalions and home invasions. The anonymity and dehumanization of war. Faceless killers and unidentifiable victims. Who can we blame for missiles and bombs that seem to appear out of thin air? When the smoke has cleared, fear and suspicion are the only enemies we have left to cling to.

In this moment, we are reminded that to be Korean means that the aftershock of warfare runs in our blood. There's a Korean proverb that says, "고래 싸움에 새우등 터진다 (When whales fight the shrimp’s back is broken)", pointing to the aforementioned feeling of entrapment as war wages from all sides of the Korean peninsula. Even the Korean War is something of a (purposeful) misnomer, as it was moreso a war between the United States and the Soviet Union on Korean soil—something I personally never knew until this year. War permeates K-pop because war permeates Korean society itself. Songs like Blackpink's "뚜두뚜두 (Ddu-Du Ddu-Du)," and "Kill This Love," and Big Bang's "뱅뱅뱅 (Bang Bang Bang)" invoke gunfire, war, and riot in both Park's musical production and Seo's visual interpretations. Between the continued presence of U.S. Military in South Korea and ongoing mandatory military service requirements for South Korean men (even members of BTS are not exempt), it is clear that the trauma of warfare rages on in the Korean heart and mind.

BLACKPINK "KILL THIS LOVE"

BIG BANG "뱅뱅뱅 (BANG BANG BANG)"

THE PRICE OF CAPITALISM

LISA IN "뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)"

JENNIE IN "뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)"

Following the Korean war, South Korea's unprecedented economic growth rapidly transformed the southern peninsula from a developing agricultural country to the 10th largest GDP in the world. This growth is largely credited to foreign aid provided by the United States and Japan.

 

In the next scene of the music video, Lisa is found in an outdoor bazaar, dripping with jewels and surrounded by frivolous objects. Visual imagery of capitalism often coincides violence in Seo's music videos, pointing to the dark price of South Korea's wealth. In the "쿠데타 (Coup d'Etat)" music video, G-Dragon can be seen literally boiling his money, deadpanning to the camera as a a sticky black tar overflows from the pots of destroyed cash. This begs the question: what is the true price of capitalism? Will Korea forever be in debt to its oppressors disguised as saviors?

G-DRAGON "쿠데타 (COUP D'ETAT)"

MISFORTUNE BECOMES REVENGE

Black umbrellas and rain are another reoccurring motif in Seo's music videos (poor Jisoo is usually the one caught in the storm). Umbrellas symbolize both misfortune and the ingenuity of survival—though it is unlucky to be caught in a rainstorm, to have had the foresight to carry an umbrella is a sign of intelligence and forethought (further symbolized by the book in Jisoo's hands). Jisoo sets the umbrellas ablaze—her misfortune becoming  the raw material for her revenge.

JISOO IN "뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)"

JISOO IN "LOVESICK GIRLS"

THE COST OF HUMAN GREED

For the second chorus we cut to this scene of... global warming?!? and... fracking?!? It's easy to miss the GIANT PUMPJACKS MINING OIL in the background due to the group's eye-catching choreography, but juxtaposed to the visuals of the first chorus (in the lush tropical paradise), it is clear that much has been destroyed in the short time that has passed. In this scene, Lisa asks the viewer again, "Look at me, now look at you... how you like that?" As 2020 rages on into 2021,  this question feels more dire day by day.

"YOU SHOULD HAVE ENDED ME

WHEN YOU HAD THE CHANCE"

삼족오 (THREE-LEGGED CROW) IN GOGURYEO MURAL

G-DRAGON "쿠데타 (COUP D'ETAT)"

Singing "You should have ended me when you had the chance," Rosé walks towards us from the light and reclaims the larger-than-life black wings that have been awaiting her return. 

Black crows hold an important symbolism in Korean culture. In ancient Goguryeo legend, the 삼족오 (Three Legged Crow) represented the sun. A creature more powerful than the dragon or the phoenix, the Three Legged Crow was used as the symbol of the Goguryeo kingdom itself. As Rosé, Jisoo, Jennie, and Lisa each reclaim the black wings (which twinkle with a pink light from within), they are reclaiming the power of our Korean ancestors.

"BRING OUT YOUR BOSS BISH"

BLACKPINK "KILL THIS LOVE"

BLACKPINK "LOVESICK GIRLS" LIVE PERFORMANCE

With a culminating beat drop, Blackpink and a group of female dancers charge toward us wearing modernized han-boks. 한복 (han-bok), the traditional clothing of Korea, was all but completely expunged from everyday wear during the early 20th century modernisation movement as the Japanese colonial government promoted the wear of western fashion. To wear the han-bok in 2020 is a reclamation of a pre-colonized Korea. To wear the han-bok in a 2020 music video is a reclamation of K(orean)-pop itself.

 

The large group of female back-up dancers in the final chorus of the song is also a repeated occurrence for Blackpink (as can be seen in the "Kill This Love" music video and "Lovesick Girls" live performance version). The idols join hands with their fellow female dancers to suggest that this is not just another disposable moment in K-pop history, this is a Korean feminist movement.

 

We are reminded of Korea's history of 기생 (Gisaeng)—highly-skilled and multi-talented courtesan-sex workers. Gisaeng were often trained in specialized dance academies and have been considered by some historians as the Ancestors of Girl Groups. In a country with deeply-rooted patriarchal ideologies (and a gender pay gap of 34.1% in 2018!!!), the Gisaeng represent both the sacrifices and resilience of Korean women. The battalion of female dancers burst forth in Blackpink's performances as if they are the Gisaeng women's long-awaited revenge. 

CHOSUN DANCING GIRLS SCHOOL, 1930

YOUNG GISAENGS IN TRAINING, 1910-1920

"IF IT'S BLACK, THEN IT'S PINK,

WE ARE PRETTY SAVAGE"

BLACKPINK "KILL THIS LOVE"

In the final scenes of the music video, two wooden horse statues appear in the background—an obvious nod to the Trojan Horse. The Trojan Horse is an allegory for a revolution in disguise—the wolf in sheep's clothing. The name and concept of 'Blackpink' itself points to this very idea. As described by a YG rep in 2016, the name 'Blackpink' "aims to contradict the common perception of the color pink. Pink is commonly used to portray prettiness, but Blackpink actually means to say that ‘Pretty isn’t everything.’"

 

For artists like Seo and Teddy, Blackpink is the Trojan Horse that carries a dream for a more hopeful future. We see four beautiful women wearing sparkling costumes and dancing immaculate choreography and we let them into our hearts without question. This is the power of not only Blackpink and K-pop—this is the power of art.

In the final moments of the music video, Blackpink has succeeded: they have turned the world pink.

THE REVOLUTION STARTS NOW

G-DRAGON "쿠데타 (COUP D'ETAT)"

BLACKPINK "LOVESICK GIRLS"

BIG BANG "BAE BAE"

Seo's music videos often end with a poignant hope for tomorrow: freely frolicking in a field ("Lovesick Girls") or playing a game of ring-around-the-rosie on a planet far, far away (Big Bang's "Bae Bae"), My favorite concluding scene, however, is from G-Dragon's "쿠데타 (Coup d'Etat)" in which a ravaged figure throws a rock at a foreboding concrete wall. The rock hits the wall and explodes into white light. A hole is punctured not by army tanks or machine guns, but by a single figure with a single rock, small enough to hold in the palm of his hand.

Perhaps the revolution is just as accessible: one rock, one music video, one person at a time.

 

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Jamie Lew is an artist, art director, culture creator, and editor-in-chief of QASC's DIS-ORIENT webzine. Unlimited by artistic medium, Jamie has created & designed touring concerts, live spectacles, art installations, theatrical sets, dance films, music videos, motion graphics, illustrations, websites, and love letters all over the world. No matter the medium, Jamie believes that visual design is a vital storytelling device—capable of magnifying the intangible heart to a world full of strangers. As a self-appointed Gaysian Icon, Jamie hopes to make you proud. #jenlisa

For more of Jamie, follow on Instagram  @thejamielew

 
 
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X

FILIPIN

by JENSEN REYES

illustrated by DEAN

When my toes meet mother ocean and I let out a breath I did not know I was holding in

When I escape from dry air conditioned spaces and feel embraces of the sun tickle my skin

When my kin are being shot expeditiously and extrajudiciously

I am filipinx

Which is to say that if you ask me to choose between my people and my heart I will kindly decline

Between white and not

Between male and not

See the irony in this is that I contain all these things

From distant European ancestors to a checkmark in a box next to the word “sex” on my birth certificate

These are things that were foisted upon me

 

When I say I am filipinx, what I am saying is that I am choosing expansiveness over scarcity

Sincerity over parody

I am seeking a future where liberation isn’t a rarity

Where my embodiment shouldn’t need clarity

My pronouns are he, they, and she, meaning

He is tired because they insist that she cannot bring these multitudes to the table

X

I am seeking a future where liberation isn’t a rarity

My gender these days feels like my roommate buying me longan fruits from the market in little Saigon; Abundant

X

When I say I am filipinx, what I am saying is I am trans, too

When I say I am filipinx, I am continuing the tradition of my babaylan trancestors

Of seeking truth

Of seeking light

Of seeking a path where my existence isn’t a question, but rather a declaration of love

Love for my self in tandem with love for my communities

 

My gender these days looks and feels a lot like early Saturday mornings at the coffee shop

A moment of mutual understanding between me and my fellow nonbinary coworker

My gender these days looks like handpainted oversized khakis and lipgloss hidden behind blue surgical mask

My gender these days feels like my roommate buying me longan fruits from the market in little Saigon; Abundant

My gender looks and feels a lot like abundance, these days. Mostly because these days are mostly spent with the self. And I would be remiss to submit to a white supremacist, cisheteropatriarchal, capitalist society that tells me to be anything but abundant. My gender is concerned with amplifying black and indigenous voices, my gender reminisces on hot pot and karaoke shared among my fellow qtpoc siblings, and my gender gears up to chant outside the mayor’s house on the corner of 6th and irving

when my people are being murdered or incarcerated doon sa pinas

when my trans sisters are being assaulted just down the street

when contemporary language cannot capture the breadth of light that is my gender

 

I am filipinx

 

Which is to say I will no longer be asking for my humanity to be respected, I will demand it.

Jensen Reyes is a Filipinx American interdisciplinary artist who's audio, written, and visual arts all inform each other. They have a single out on all major platforms called "Apt 113" for an upcoming EP, and countless songs, poems, and other written work lying dormant on their laptop. You may recognize Jensen from their work with Sunday Jump, a Filipinx open mic and community arts space based in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles, or from their shoddy almond milk latte art from a number of coffee shops in the greater Los Angeles area.

For more of Jensen, follow on Instagram @jensen_hari

IMAGE DESCRIPTIONS

1.  TITLE | ART BY DEAN

Textured color gradient (blue, pink, orange, beige). FILIPINX is written over this, the X overflowing in the color pink. Blue footsteps

2.  X & PLANT| ART BY DEAN

A pink X decorated with illustrated green leaves and orange blobs.

3.  X & DOODLES| ART BY DEAN

A pink X decorated with colorful doodles: a blue rectangle, a green macaroni, a yellow squiggle, an orange circle, a pink squiggle, a pink triangle.

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Reprogramming

the Matrix

BY COURTNEY XIN

ILLUSTRATIONS BY DEAN

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A background of turquoise stars, a square of black space, a blue grid. Portrait of Courtney with pieces cut out of her revealing a blue color within. A tiny white human figure falls from above.

 

As a queer, Chinese Mexican woman, the first thing I did was redefine myself by transcending the limitations of identity. But wait, isn’t this whole thing ​about​ identity? Don’t our identities and their intersections have substantial implications in our daily lives? They do.

And yet.

And yet.

The moment I woke up to everything I came here to be, I recognized how little my identities mattered. There is a difference between resistance and transcendence. Both require a level of burning, painful as it may be. I’m not an activist. I’m an alchemist, and fire is my tool.

The matrix, programmed by our governments, media, and pay-to-play institutions (academic, financial, health, religious, etc.), functions to keep us small and triggered, and we’ve unintentionally bought in. Despite their superficial cries for equality, they’re actually programming us into victimization, separation, and polarization.

And yet.

As a woman, I have experienced sexism and gender-based violence. As a Chinese Mexican person, I have experienced discrimination and carry intergenerational trauma from those who lacked resources to cope. As a queer woman, I have received ignorance and hate. Where these identities intersect, my reality has often been denied.

And yet.

I acknowledge all the ways I have been victimized. I acknowledge all the ways I derived power from maintaining the role of victim. I acknowledge that I deserved better. By doing the work to heal and integrate these stories, I released emotional baggage that wasn’t mine.

By healing childhood and intergenerational traumas, I grew disillusioned by the false matrix projecting itself onto me. I want to emphasize that ​ownership​ and ​healing​ broke me through. Sitting in meditation with discomfort; sitting in therapy with shame; sitting with myself, free from d i s t r a c t i o n s, wracked with grief and anxiety, I learned that the fear of the thing is often worse than the thing. What truly had me locked in stagnancy were the stories I was telling myself and the trapped emotions in my body. Trauma and oppression get trapped in our bodies. Once free, they no longer have the same hold because our frequencies renew themselves.

The scariest thing in the world was ​me​ because I had been programmed to fear my power, my voice, my light, my truth, my woman-ness, my queerness, my ethnic-ness. The matrix doesn’t want me empowered, but the divine spark within me decided it had enough with that nonsense.

So I faced my biggest fears and spread my wings. It’s a lifelong dance, this healing journey. It’s not a switch. But I do it for myself, my ancestors, and my communities.

And yet.

 

Awful things happen. Which brings me back to the matrix. I now recognize trigger events as propagated systems of control, and I welcome the opportunity to see where I’m not free so I can begin my liberation work. I’m not here to live under a cloud of oppression or victimization. In embodying a queer, Chinese Mexican, female form, I get to break free from illusions I’d otherwise never notice.

The Revolution is ​US.​ The light shining within our colorful, queer, Asian selves is our invitation for liberation. Let’s expand into the beings we came here to be, and let’s alchemize all the heartbreak, pain, shame, and fear into fuel to propel ourselves to places we never imagined. We have each other, our pioneering forebears, and the intensity of our devotion illuminating our path. 

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Courtney Xin  is lifelong student of the mystery, a channel, and a world traveler observing the invisible threads between the sacred and the profane. Courtney is located in Los Angeles, CA and is currently obtaining her degree in Cultural Anthropology and writes a travel blog at postcardsfromcourt.wordpress.com.

For more of Courtney, follow on Instagram @courtneyoverhere

 
 
 
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A Celestial Reading

 

BY IAN SIMMONS-FRANCISCO

aka The Luna Naughty

PAST

THE FOOL

You jumped into a new adventure “horns” first; it had its ups and downs but there was a lesson to learn on this journey. Even if it didn’t go the way you intended, you still come out with a crown filled with knowledge.

PRESENT

TEN OF CUPS

You have finally been able to step back from your adventure and see the silver lining in an unbiased perspective. That’s exactly what this card shows you—even if you didn’t gain what you wanted, you gained different knowledge of yourself, others, and the world. Celebrate yourself and how far you have come to be where you are.

FUTURE

FOUR OF CUPS

Although you have been able to heal from your trials and tribulations, you are hesitant to dive into other ventures. You may be retreating from opportunities in the name of self care; however, it may be due to the fear of “failure”. This card appears to warn you that you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

RECAP

After falling deep into an adventure that had its ups and downs; you have come out on top with fruitful knowledge about yourself that will help you in your endeavors of life. Although you know that life is filled with lessons, you are afraid of taking new risks in an attempt to protect yourself. Unfortunately you will not grow to be the strongest you that you can be without taking these risks. Be grateful for what has happened in the past, learn from it, and leave it there. Hold onto what you have learned and go forward with the rest of your life.

Ian Simmons-Francisco is a happa witch studying different types of oracle reading and psychology. Ian’s pronouns are they/them and in drag they go by ‘The Luna Naughty’

For more of Ian/Luna, follow on Instagram @thelunanaughty

 
 
 
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WE LOVE YOU!

We hope you enjoyed the first season of DIS-ORIENT.

Follow us on our socials to find out when we'll be dropping the next season!

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