Professor Arcega's Art Plays Role in Fighting Anti-Asian Hate

Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Michael Arcega's art installation of Spam sliced in the shape of a map of North and South America
Detail of “SPAM/MAPS: World” by Michael Arcega. 2001. Spam luncheon meat and pins. 3 feet by 4 feet by 2 inches.

CHINA DAILY (HONG KONG) -- Michael Arcega, an Art professor at San Francisco State University, presented his 2007 installation work “SPAM/MAPS: Oceania.” Arcega dried, diced and pinned Spam luncheon meat to represent U.S. Army bases around the world on a map.

The work originated out of his lingering curiosity, said Arcega, who frequently ate Spam meat during his childhood in the Philippines.

“I always wonder, why did I grow up eating Spam?” said Arcega. As he followed the notion of “you are what you eat” and got caught up with his identity after he came to the U.S., Arcega realized that “as a U.S. military ration,” Spam is deep in his heart as the “residue of the Philippines’ colonial era.”

By mirroring the past through his work, Arcega said he hoped to “empower Asian Americans” by accepting their identities. “Any name-calling, racial hatred against people of Asian descent should immediately stop,” Arcega said. “We need to flip the toxic rhetoric.”