Linda Nishio came to the Woman's Building in the late 1970s, as she explains in her oral history (Document 18D). It is interesting to note that Nishio did not arrive at the Building as a result of any outreach program; she came because she felt an immediate connection to the content and style of work being done by artists associated with the Woman's Building and befriended several of the women. She worked at the Woman's Building in the Women's Graphic Center from 1981 to 1986.
Nishio, who worked primarily as a performance artist during this period, created several pieces during the early 1980s that dealt with issues of inclusiveness. In 1980, Woman's Building member Vanalyne Green facilitated Nishio's participation in a performance series at LACE, an alternative art space in downtown Los Angeles. Nishio chose to rework Cheap Talk, originally performed in 1979 at the Franklin Furnace in New York. Cheap Talk is a complex piece that presages the postmodern turn in feminism. Nishio converses with a filmed image of herself, engaging in Freudian slips and splitting her thoughts so that the audience must work to follow the fragmented narrative. Cheap Talk is a discourse about both the role of the artist and issues of ethnic identity.
Kikoemasu ka? (Can you hear me?) (Document 18B) also addressed Nishio's ethnic identity through manipulation of language. This work appeared on a street kiosk in the Los Angeles neighborhood known as Little Tokyo in 1982. In a series of six photographs, Nishio's face is pressed against glass as she mouths the Japanese that translates to "Can you hear me?" The images are juxtaposed with text about her life growing up as a third-generation Japanese American in California. The viewer is left with a profound sense of Nishio's alienation—from her family since she learned to speak the formalized academic language of the art world, from other Japanese Americans because she was not encouraged to learn Japanese as a child, and from native English speakers because she came from a bilingual home.
Nishio recreated Ghost in the Machine (Document 18C), a piece first performed at the Franklin Furnace in New York (7 March 1981), at the tenth anniversary exhibition of the Woman's Building. In this film version, Nishio appears with a cardboard house on top of her head. The house tries to locate itself in different neighborhoods, but it never quite fits in. The piece speaks to Nishio's continued fascination with issues of belonging and her sense of displacement.
For Linda Nishio's description of these three performances, see Document 18D.
Still from Linda Nishio, Cheap Talk (1980). Nishio is in the lower left of the image, interacting with the filmed version of herself.
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