For The Autotopographers, artist iris hu will create the fourth iteration in her series Survival Guide. After the death of her close friend and collaborator, hu discovered a poem among her friend’s belongings titled “Jo$$ Money | The Surplus [Survival Guide].” It recalls the poet asking her grandmother how to survive the apocalypse. Drawing on this idea and the memory of her friend, hu creates immersive environments that she envisions as chapters that document her engagement with the histories and artistic practices of people close to her.
This particular Survival Guide is dedicated to hu’s paternal grandmother and her lifelong struggle with marginalization and stigmatization. As a person of Hmong/Miao descent in Han-majority China, hu’s grandmother hid her ethnicity for decades and, after the Communist takeover of China and a forced emigration, she completely exorcised her indigenous roots. In the late 1990s, hu’s father found this branch of his extended family in Guilin, Guangxi, China (now designated a Zhuang autonomous region) and reunited his mother with many of her forgotten relatives. Now, hu is accompanying her father on a return trip. While there, she will learn the Hmong/Miao’s traditional weaving and embroidery practices, which she will incorporate into her installation, along with paintings, collaged textiles, and narrative objects to create a space for learning, healing, sharing, and storytelling.