G. Funo O'Kain


Think of this site as an open studio: a repository for ongoing art projects. On any given day you may find a shifting array of images, writing, a selection of influencing works, and other materials related to research on and art-making about Japanese American history.

Broadly, this work is about longing and land, memory and mythology, about ancestors and time travel. It is about asking the question, "what could have been?".

Specifically, this work is about my own family and their unlawful forced removal along with that of close to 126,000 people of Japanese ancestry during WWII.

For the time being, the work here is divided into categories:

UnResidency comprises notes on and images of my travels and research as I make work this year.

Think of Japantown Was Forever as a category of works in which land, location, and loss are foregrounded,

Think of The Moon! The Moon! as a category of works in which the Moon is the central motif: a metaphor for time travel; a witness; a holder of memories.

Think of Shadow Reclamation Act as a category of works in which the act of returning is documented.

Please note that many of these works may be categorizable in more than one of these categories; others may not fall into any of those categories. For those I have created another category:

Loomings: a category for the uncategorized.

A note about terminology and caring for each other's histories:

This chapter of American history has been characterized by misleading and euphemistic language.

In searching for and telling my own family's stories within this larger American story, I make an effort to reject euphemistic terminology. I acknowledge that debates continue and that language, like understanding, is a work in progress.

The differentiation between words such as "incarceration" and "internment," and my decision to use the term "American concentration camp" instead of "relocation center" or "incarceration camp" are informed by guidance on terminology provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, by the Densho statement on terminology, by The National JACL Power of Words Handbook and by arguments that are explored in this NPR article, and an article from the UCLA Newsroom in 2015. By using the term "American concentration camp" when referring to these sites, my aim is to reject euphemistic language and to make a clear distinction between the human-rights violations that took place on American soil, and the atrocities that took place in concentration camps in other parts of the world, including the Nazi concentration camps and killing centers.

The statement below can be found in context here (pages 12-13). It was co-authored in 1994 by the Japanese American National Museum and seven American Jewish organizations. It is a model that exemplifies for me what it means to honor each other's histories; to clarify what sets them apart; and to remind us of the horror of the most egregious acts therein:

"A concentration camp is a place where people are imprisoned not
because of any crimes they committed, but simply because of who
they are. Although many groups have been singled out for such
persecution throughout history, the term ‘concentration camps’
was first used at the turn of the century in the Spanish American
and Boer Wars.
During World War II, America’s concentration camps were clearly
distinguishable from Nazi Germany’s. Nazi camps were places of
torture, barbarous medical experiments, and summary executions;
some were extermination centers with gas chambers. Six million
Jews and many others including Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals, and
political dissidents were slaughtered in the Holocaust.
In recent years, concentration camps have existed in the former
Soviet Union, Cambodia, and Bosnia.
Despite the difference, all had one thing in common: the people in
power removed a minority group from the general population and
the rest of society let it happen."

A note about the Gila River American Concentration Camp: This site is located on private property belonging to the Gila River Indians, If you wish to visit the Gila River site, please contact info@gilariver.org.

A note about traveling responsibly during Covid-19: The projects here are largely site-responsive works. Please note that all travel has been conducted by car, social-distancing protocols have been observed, meetings are conducted online or outdoors as much as possible; when sharing indoor space is unavoidable (such as at highway rest stops or on rare occasions when access to archives is granted) I always wear a mask; I tent camp as much as possible. Indoor accommodations are only used if self-isolation is possible.