End Credits (Guilty by Reason of Race)
The work is a silent experimental animation, painted and scratched directly onto found 16mm film. The original footage comes from Guilty By Reason Of Race, a 1972 black-and-white NBC documentary about the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Much of my artistic practice engages with the material remainders of this history and considers what is absent on site and in the historical record.
This work loops the end credits, which consist of a single shot of a landscape understood to be the site of Granada War Relocation Center in Granada, Colorado, but virtually anonymous when cut from the original. Save for some sunlight through trees, the scene is empty. The buildings at these camps were not intended to be permanent, let alone historical.
The film was purchased off eBay in a years-long search for relevant auctions. It is in brittle, middling condition for its age, and its faded color obscures the original image. But by obliterating the credits and drawing, coloring, and etching new words and images, I carve out a response to explore intergenerational trauma, confusion, and anger. To sustain these strong emotions while working frame by frame is a test of endurance, even if the visible result is jittery and (paradoxically, comically) brief.
I aim for an intimately scaled expression that will evoke and deepen the conversations that current generations have with this history.
Justine Lai is an artist based in New York City. She holds degrees from Stanford University and Cranbrook Academy of Art.