Refugee Nation – Legacies of War

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Artist – Leilani Chan Refugee Nation/ Legacies of War: Searching for Laotian America
An artist-in-residency project @ SPARC
Creating Sites of Public Memory Since 1976

For Immediate Release
Contact: Betty Marin
310/822-9560 x10

Culminating Public Event will be
Saturday, April 28th 7:00pm-10:00pm
Includes completed installations, performance and FREE Lao/Thai food

(MARCH 22, 2007-VENICE) SPARC is pleased to welcome Leilani Chan and her project Refugee Nation/ Legacies of War: Searching for Laotian America. Ms. Chan and the South East Asian Collaborative (SEAC) will collaborate with members of the Laotian community to create artistic works that reconstruct the story of this untold American experience. The residency begins Tuesday, April 3rd and runs until Monday, April 30th. Visit with the artists every Saturday (from 1–4 pm).

Laotian communities were created in the U.S. as a result of this government’s involvement in an illegal and secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War. As a result Lao refugees, largely families that supported U.S. military activities in Laos and Vietnam, were forced out of Laos and created communities throughout the U.S. Over 240,000 Laotian refugees have resettled in the U.S. since 1973. Over 40 percent of all Laotians in the United States now reside in California. Most still have family in Laos. Older Laotian Americans carry emotional scars from the experiences of war and the trauma of leaving their homeland. However, younger generations, who left Laos as small children or were born in refugee camps or the U.S., often know little about their past. Work created will reveal the connections between the history of the U.S. and South East Asia and will tell the stories of a displaced community’s struggle to create a future as their American descendants struggle to understand their past.

Members of the Laotian Community can participate by: visiting the SPARC gallery, talking to the artists on Saturdays from 1-4 in the gallery, contribute stories and images online, contact the artists via email or phone to set an appoint for an oral history interview, or take part in performance and oral history workshops. Laotians of any age are encouraged to contact the artists at,, or 310/998-8765. Work created during this residency at SPARC will go on to be presented in Santa Monica, New York and Boston, MA. For future dates and locations please contact or visit or

Throughout the month of April, artists Leilani Chan, Ova Saopeng, Mali Kounchao and Steve Arounsack will search for Laotian Americans in Southern California to share their refugee experiences. Beginning April 3rd and running until April 30th, the SPARC gallery will provide a space for artists and community to gather, share experiences and contribute to the artwork being created.

Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng will be leading workshops in performance, oral history interviewing, and mental health training for South East Asian artists as part of the development of “Refugee Nation,” a theater project based on the collected stories of Laotian refugees. These stories will be woven into performances that incorporate poetry, song, dance, and martial arts into an intense, thought-provoking examination of the complexities faced by Laotians who have fled to the United States in the wake of the Vietnam War.

Multi-media artist, Steve Arounsack, former president of Pacific Arc Media, will be creating and testing out the “Multimedia Interactive Center: Giving the Past a Voice.” The interactive kiosk, with user-friendly touch screens, will allows exhibition audiences to view: oral histories and drawings; a historical timeline of the secret bombings with pictures, videos and narrative; Legacies of War activities around the country; information about the Laotian Diaspora around the world; and an advocacy section. After using the kiosk, the audience will have an opportunity to record their reactions to the exhibition or to tell their personal stories on camera.

Visual Artist Mali Kounchao will be designing “Lanterns,” a visual art installation which uses family photographs and immigration portraits of Laotian refugees affected by the war secret bombings. The black and white images are projected onto paper lanterns, capturing the interplay of light and shadow and symbolizing remembrance and honor. During the SPARC exhibition Mali will be traveling in Laos. While in Laos she will be talking to Laotian artisans and deportees from the U.S. Photos taken while in Laos will be projected directly into SPARC’s gallery.

“Refugee Nation” is being developed in collaboration with Legacies of War. Legacies of War was created to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos, to provide space for healing the wounds of war and to create greater hope for a future of peace. “Refugee Nation” will be presented in tandem with the Legacies of War national Traveling Exhibition at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center in Massachusetts in September/October 2007. For more information on how to support this education & advocacy effort go to

This project is supported in part, by grants from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs, the Los Angeles Immigrant Funders’ Collective and support from: SPARC, Legacies of War, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Multi-Arts Production Fund, UCLA’s World Arts And Culture’s 2006 HOTHOUSE, CSU Dominguez Hills Pat Eliet Lecture series, National Performance Network Creation Fund/OUT NORTH & Highways Performance.

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