by Lydia Fu // twitter: @lydiafu
For the theme of this year's art show, Fierce Tidings, we focus on how artists, creators and culture in the Asian American and Asian Diasporic community respond to current or recent events and how that inspires us to defend or create new spaces for underrepresented voices and cultures.
As one of the formational vanguards of modern Asian American identity and pop culture, I wanted to take a look at Giant Robot Magazine which was started as a DIY zine, photocopied and stapled, in the 90s by Eric Nakamura. Giant Robot created a unique platform that hadn't existed before. It has since developed into a store, a brand, and an online resource for pop culture and art and it continues to evolve its larger encompassing legacy.
At least for me as a young lass in the early days of the internet and growing up in Midwest isolation from the diverse culture of the peripheral coasts, GR magazine was one of my main sources of creative news and inspirational content. Before JUXTAPOZ or High Fructose and others, GR was where I could get info on art that I was sincerely interested in or that I related to. Eric keeps his daily schedule incredibly busy with his endeavors that include running the Giant Robot store and brand, curating shows at GR2 (Giant Robot's Art Gallery), the Japanese American National Museum and the Smithsonian APA Center, recording his podcast with fellow LA curator Daniel Rolnik The Jew and the Lotus and serving as a councilman for the LA Sawtelle neighborhood (P.S. he's been to the White House and met Obama). Despite his hectic schedule, I'm amazed at how he still manages to be so chill and such a gracious person to chat with and learn from. I asked Eric some questions about his current project launching Giant Robot Media!
Lydia: I think in addition to FAAIM, a lot of Giant Robot fans out there can also say we're super excited about GR magazine re-launching as a media presence both online and perhaps print again! GR Media is currently in beta version - when can we expect the release version and how can people sign up?
Eric: I’m not quite sure yet, but so far we’ve been putting up content three times a week in a short two and a half weeks as of this writing. At the moment, you can find us at giantrobot.media and if you want to read any of the past articles, you just have to see our Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Each article is sort of like a page on its own. We email out the link to everyone on our email list and let it fly. The last thing I’d want to do is promise a giant page of content everywhere without the ability to change each portion of it often so we’re doing things one step at a time, without promising a thing.
Lydia: You first started Giant Robot magazine 20 years ago, when there were virtually no other publications in the same space. Why have you decided to re-awaken GR Media now?
Eric: 23! I’m unsure if there’s been another publication in the same space since. Has there? People seem to not think so, but I’ve stopped paying attention to things like this long ago. GR Media is something new, so it’s a re-awakening I suppose, but really it’s completely new. I met George Ko who's a multi-talented youngster and believes in it. So here we are. We’re not looking back. We’re just going forward. I think making media is still something I enjoy doing and I think the right circumstances are here for it.
Lydia: How has the game changed?
Eric: It’s hard to say exactly. The internet is cluttered and noisy and there’s a lot of deception in social networking. In the end, I suppose I don’t think about the game that much. I’m thinking about doing good work and putting up interesting content. There’s always a need for that and there’s still a shortage of that too. You’d think there was a lot of it, but I guess I still have a hard time finding it.
Lydia: How is GR Media different than the early GR Magazine?
Eric: Even the later GR Magazine wasn’t the same as early GR Magazines. GR Media is different for sure. It’s faster and perhaps less self-indulgent. In a short time we’ve put up more articles than we would ever have, and that includes more videos and audio interviews Giant Robot Magazine ever did. Also the photography is looking great. This is sort of how I wanted later GR Magazine to be like with an online component that enhances it, but now we’re doing it all in one. We’ll see how our print edition comes out.
Lydia: You've had some history in film, including with FAAIM, your first film Sunsets with Michael Aki, and Dirty Hands: The Art and Crimes of David Choe among others.
Will you be incorporating more films into GR Media?
Eric: Cinema? At the moment, no. But perhaps we’ll be interviewing the makers, players, or geeks in between.
Lydia: Any current/new projects?
Eric: There are a bunch of projects which are all either Giant Robot or Giant Robot Media related. The fun part is that things can change quickly as new projects or ideas come up. That’s how it’s been and gladly that hasn’t changed.