We Are More
“We are more than your Asian sidekick, the confused foreigner, the future doctor, your submissive plaything, the helpless refugee, the dragon lady, the straight A student, the computer hacker, the martial arts master, the spunky girl with dyed hair, the quiet kid, the dependable worker, the Tiger mom.”
Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s We Are More public art campaign celebrates the expansive diversity and individuality of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in New York City and around the country. It responds to and rebukes the harassment and violence that has become increasingly severe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The titular work in the campaign is a direct address to the bigoted and confining stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans in popular culture; other works ask questions both poignant — “When will we stop feeling afraid?” — and pointed — “When will you love us like you love our food?” Still more feature vibrant portraits representative of defiant and proud Asian American and Pacific Islander New Yorkers. Phingbodhipakkiya juxtaposes rich tones and energetic shapes with the language of sorrow and anger to show that despite what AAPI people have faced in New York and elsewhere, they remain undeterred and steadfast members of the cities they call home.
To inform this campaign and amplify the individual voices of the AAPI community, Phingbodhipakkiya has solicited stories from Asian American and Pacific Islanders across the U.S. that highlight a multitude of experiences, perspectives, and cultural identities. These first-hand accounts will be featured online at MoreThan.Art in conjunction with the public campaign in Times Square.
An award-winning multidisciplinary artist, Phingbodhipakkiya created the public awareness initiative I Still Believe in Our City to address the rise in anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 crisis as a 2020 artist-in-residence with the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Her work has recently been featured on the cover of TIME Magazine, and previously appeared in Times Square as part of the Vote Your Future campaign. Now, she and Times Square Arts unveil We Are More throughout Times Square in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and in response to the escalating anti-Asian violence in New York City and across the country. The 40 distinct artworks and typographic designs in the campaign will appear on Morgan Stanley’s digital billboard, JCDecaux digital displays, and Big Belly receptasigns in over 120 locations, accessible to the many thousands of people who visit Times Square each day.
“Asian Americans have not been given space to express the full range of our feelings and identities. For decades, we have had little media representation—our faces were used as props, villains, or background characters. We Are More brings our faces and words to one of the most visible and trafficked intersections in the world. Just as Times Square connects people from all different backgrounds, the AAPI community draws from dozens of nationalities and cultures. With this campaign, we declare that we will no longer tolerate the narrow box that has been defined for us. We have been cursed at, pushed, spat on, stabbed, kicked, shot, and killed. We have been blamed for a pandemic we did not create, a crisis that has caused tremendous damage to our community. We will no longer bury our pain in silence and we will not be cowed by bullies or bigots. We are here to speak. We are here to stand. We are here to stay,” said artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya.
Photos by Maria Baranova