The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force
Thursday, June 23, 2016, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
A special report presented by Stephanie Sauer and Ella Maria Diaz
co-sponsored by San Francisco Art Institute and University of Texas Press
celebrating the release of
The Accidental Archives Of The Royal Chicano Air Force
published by University of Texas Press
Employing a creative mix of real and fictive events, objects, and people that subverts assumptions about the archiving and display of historical artifacts, this innovative book both documents and evokes an arts collective that played a significant role in the Chicano movement.
How do you write a history of a group that has been written out of history? In The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force, world-famous archaeologist La Stef and the clandestine Con Sapos Archaeological Collective track down the "facts" about the elusive RCAF, the Rebel Chicano Art Front that, through an understandable mix-up with the Royal Canadian Air Force, became the Royal Chicano Air Force.
La Stef and her fellow archaeologists document the plight and locura que cura of the RCAF, a group renowned for its fleet of adobe airplanes, ongoing subversive performance stance, and key role as poster makers for the United Farm Workers Union during the height of the Chicano civil rights movement. As the Con Sapos team uncovers tensions between fact and fiction in historical consciousness and public memory, they abandon didactic instruction and strive instead to offer a historiography in which various cultural paradigms already intersect seamlessly and on equal ground. That they often fail to navigate the blurred lines between "objective" Western archival sciences and Indigenous/Chicana/o cosmologies reflects the very human predicament of documenting the histories of complicated New Worlds everywhere. Uniquely blending art history, oral history, cultural studies, and anthropology, The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force suspends historical realities and leaps through epochs and between conversations with various historical figures, both dead and alive, to offer readers an intimate experience of RCAF history.
A cofounding editor of A Bolha Editora and executive editor of Copilot Press, Stephanie Sauer is an interdisciplinary text-based artist and visiting lecturer at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Ella Maria Diaz is Assistant Professor of English and Latino Studies at Cornell University and the author of Flying Under the Radar with the Royal Chicano Air Force (University of Texas Press, forthcoming 2017). She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, teaching several courses at William and Mary and developing the College's first Chicana Literature course in spring 2005. Her research pertains to the interdependence of Chicano/a and U.S. Latino/a literary and visual cultures. She was a Lecturer in The School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the San Francisco Art Institute between 2006 until 2012. Diaz has published through Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, U.C. Santa Barbara's ImaginArte, and in Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social.
What has been said about The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force:
"What a magnificent project—a blend of curation, art history, archaeology, and, perhaps most important, a book tinged with the trace of ludic savvy, the 'ludic' being at the heart of the Royal Chicano Air Force, a playful intervention, an intervening play, both at the same time. The volume archives in book form an artistic performance/event that has not been documented. It does so with vision and acuity and, essential here, with wit! Stephanie Sauer's gift is to have compiled a working archive that mimes the logic of the Royal Chicano Air Force without overshadowing it in any way."
"To make an artist-book to pay homage to the contributions of an artist collective is significant because it has not been attempted within Chicana/o art history. This is an entirely new strategy—unique, original, and witty—that allows for highly detailed accounts of RCAF history. The artist, Stephanie Sauer, is interested in the destruction and creation of history and how archival material is preserved, who decides, and how power informs knowledge production. Her book stands on its own as a work of art, a codex of the RCAF."