Artists and scholars Yumi Janairo Roth and Emmanuel David’s collaborative research examines the experiences of Filipino performers in “Wild West” shows, including the well-known Buffalo Bill’s Wild West traveling show, between 1899–1900, foregrounding their importance and establishing connections between the shows and the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars. Over the course of their fellowship, Roth and David’s research and creative production will continue to draw attention to this overlooked group of Asian performers, situating them in the context of U.S. imperial expansion. Through this work, Roth and David aim to fill a major gap in the historical record and enhance understandings of the transnational aspects of the American West.
For the last two decades, Roth’s practice as an artist has included public interventions, participatory and socially-engaged projects, and site-responsive sculpture. Since 2018, Roth has been an artist-in-residence with Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, CA where she has developed the multifaceted project Spin (after Sol LeWitt) and has collaborated with professional sign spinners, museum workers, dancers, and choreographers. To date, Spin (after Sol LeWitt) has been presented at the Walker Art Center, a premiere contemporary art museum in Minneapolis, MN and the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, Las Vegas’s only public contemporary art museum. In March 2022, Spin (after Sol LeWitt) returned to Grand Central Art Center as an exhibition and participatory project. Spin (after Sol LeWitt) has been funded, in part, by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
In addition to numerous exhibitions and artist-in-residences in the United States, Roth has been an artist-in-residence in the Czech Republic, Germany, and the Philippines where she has been invited to create site-based works at universities and art museums. At Galerie Klatovy-Klenová in the Czech Republic, Roth worked with the local village, volunteer firefighters, and the contemporary art museum to realize the collaborative project, Minor Landmark/Opomíjená Pamětihodnost. As an artist-in-residence with the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Roth developed Kaugummiautomatenpreise, a temporary project that stretched across the city of Frankfurt. Finally, as an artist-in-residence with the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Roth created Small Acts of Public Service, a project that lived in the jeepneys of Metro Manila as well as within the Vargas Museum.
David is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work highlights the intersections of gender, sexuality, and globalization, especially in the racialized contexts of US-Philippine relations. He was trained as a sociologist and ethnographer, and his research has focused on global call centers, beauty pageants, and contemporary art, dance, and performance. He is associate professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.
As Lunder Institute fellows, Roth and David will engage with the Lunder Collection’s robust holdings pertaining to the American West, including works by James McNeill Whistler, Alfred Jacob Miller, and Albert Bierstadt. Beyond mining the museum’s collection, Roth and David will utilize their fellowship to continue their scholarly inquiries into modes of representation of Filipinos at the turn of the century, revealing new understandings of the Filipino performers who traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a group that Roth and David collectively refer to as the Filipino Rough Riders. Roth and David also create artworks related to their research, including the site-specific series, We Are Coming, that installs the names of the Rough Riders on historic marquees. During their tenure as fellows, Roth and David will explore the potential for marquee installations in Maine, drawing out trans-regional connections between the Rough Riders and the numerous Maine locations that hosted Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows in 1900, including Biddeford, Lewiston, Bangor, Dover, Augusta, and Portland. Additionally, Roth and David plan to produce a speculative archive that blends fiction and reality through created ephemera and “documentary” evidence of Filipino history in the United States. Roth and David’s fellowship will take the form of iterative visits to Colby College over the course of a year, with opportunities for faculty, staff, and surrounding community to engage with their scholarship.