Walker Art Center

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Spencer Nakasako
Everyone has a story.

Spencer Nakasako, a Walker artist-in-residence in 2001 and 2002, has developed a unique style of filmmaking that is inextricably intermeshed with social consciousness and community engagement. In his home base of San Francisco—a city with a long history of Asian immigration and diverse ethnic groups—he has been working with largely Southeast Asian, at-risk teenagers in the disenfranchised Tenderloin neighborhood, teaching them about documentary filmmaking and video production. Nakasako’s best-known works have highlighted the lives of some of these youths. His a.k.a. Don Bonus (1995), the video diary of young Cambodian-born refugee Sokly “Don Bonus” Ny, won a National Emmy Award and was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival. Kelly Loves Tony (1998) and the coming-of-age film Refugee (2002) complete a trilogy presenting profoundly touching personal narratives of the lives of young immigrants in all their displacements, struggles, joys, and resilience.

Driving all these films, each created with a nonconventional documentary method, is Nakasako’s often repeated mantra: “Everyone has a story.” During his residencies at the Walker, he took a mobile digital-media lab to Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis and Lao family Community Center in St. Paul, where a group of Native American and Hmong teens learned to shoot and edit short films in order to tell their own stories in a new medium. In conjunction with the residency, Nakasako created a self-activated video booth inside a Walker gallery, in which visitors were invited to participate. The recordings were then made available for others to view and share; many were inspired to try their own. For the exhibition OPEN-ENDED, Nakasako expands on the popular project with a digital media station. Housed in Rirkrit Tiravanija’s stagelike structure untitled 2005 (demo station no. 5), it consists of an updated video booth linked to a video jukebox. Visitors’ spontaneous responses to a set of questions are fed into the jukebox and then played in random order.