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For Freedom billboards
Artwork by John Yuyi

For Freedoms is merging art and politics with gutsy billboard takeovers

Marking Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, the artist-led non-profit organisation is displaying 40 political artworks on digital billboards across the US

To coincide with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, For Freedoms, the billboard emblazoning non-profit, is taking over public digital displays in cities throughout the USA in a thunderous display of BIPOC solidarity. 

Curated by co-founder Michelle Woo, digital strategist JiaJia Fei, and muralist Erin Yoshi, For Freedoms has commissioned 40 international artists to create one-off billboard posters for the project. It’s all about showcasing the “diversity and multitudes of Asian American and Pacifiic Islander identities through a public representation of arms linked against hate,” as the foundation says. 

So far, Maia Ruth Lee, Mel Chin, Taiji Terasaki, Carol Lim, and Chella Man, have had their work displayed, with Madame Gandhi, Job Piston, SDA, and Micki Davis yet to come. This week, John Yuyi’s billboard went live in Denver – a Taiwanese artist based in New York, Yuyi’s work reflects on a time-worn double standard: "I got introduced as a female artist in Asia. I got introduced as an Asian female artist in western countries. I found it interesting. Do people introduce others as white male artists?" 

By using public art initiatives as tools of rapid response, For Freedoms hope to signal boost marginalised voices, giving them the physical space to direct political discourse. “This year we observe AAPI month while witnessing the heartbreaking footage of our Asian elders being beaten on the streets as a direct consequence of weaponised rhetoric such as ‘the China virus’, with hate crimes against Asians increasing by 164 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 and by 223 per cent in New York City alone,” says Fei.

Steering the conversation beyond #StopAsianHate and knee-jerk social media responses to civil rights movements – think pastelle infographics or the black squares of BLM – For Freedoms is partnering with ADOC (the Asian American Documentary network) to create a social media film series that celebrate the long history of Asian American and BIPOC solidarity. Based on the shared birthday of US activists Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X, the May 19th campaign is one such example – with a video a day, the project will run until June 1.

For more information on For Freedoms, read the collective’s online art book, Infinite Playbook, which outlines its short-term and long-term goals, and lists ways to get involved.