In support of Black Lives Matter and to confirm commitment and solidarity against the attacks on Asian Americans and the harassment and homicide of Black individuals, the banner design, Better (2021), by social practice artist Mel Chin (b. 1951, Houston, Texas) articulates the importance of language and translation to social justice work in our diverse nation.
The design emerged from a simple question: how do you meaningfully express “Black Lives Matter” in Chinese? Troubled by the inadequacy of common translations, the artist consulted with scholars and chose heiming youguan, a variation of a Chinese idiom xingming youguan meaning “vitally important, a matter of life and death.” The strategic substitution of the Chinese characters meaning “black life” (heiming) for those meaning “soul-life” (xingming) provided the artist with words worthy of amplification. Originally created with For Freedoms, a U.S. artist-run platform presenting artists’ civic engagement in public spaces, Chin’s banner represents mutual support and the linked struggles of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities against hate.
This is third in a series of artist-designed banners on the DMA's Ross Avenue Plaza that use art as a catalyst for conversation and change around issues of sociopolitical importance.
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