As a species, we’ve created few other institutions that rival the depth and breadth of the US immigration system and its obstructive complexity. For those who experience it firsthand, it takes many forms. It is at once sterile, inscrutable, unyielding, and a powerful locus of human emotion, both joy and sorrow. The tension between these opposing forces often produces surreal realities: babies representing themselves in court, artificial marriages, and countless other startling intersections of bureaucracy and human messiness.
The O-1 visa application process is a prime example of this type of conflict. It’s a program available, as USCIS describes, to “individuals with an extraordinary ability or achievement,” a category which includes artists, business leaders, scientists, and athletes, which upon reading begs the question, what constitutes an achievement? How extraordinary is extraordinary enough?
In her project, O1 Magazine, the artist and editor Jenny Hung has created a forum to explore this weird liminal space and celebrate the work of artists navigating it. The magazine has featured work by Yuanchen Jiang, Sulki and Min Choi,
Liona Robyn Nyariri, Costanza Alarcon Tennen, Moonsick Gang, Iman Raad, and many more. Released at the beginning of this year, the first issue was published in the ingeniously cumbersome form of a foldable map. Its formal structure cleverly integrates elements of USCIS’s bizarre mathematics: each artist was allotted one word for thousand visas issued to residents of their home country last year. South-Korean born Canadian Cindy Ji Hye Kim received 3540 words, while Nejc Prah, of Slovenia, received only one.
The second issue is a companion to an exhibition of visual art that took place in July 2017. Though the exhibition has concluded, the issue lives on as a catalog of the works it featured, and an interesting piece of graphic design in its own right. Geographically rooted in the Two Bridges district of Manhattan where the exhibition was housed, it is a visually arresting, multilingual embodiment of the event.
Copies of both issues are available for purchase at O1mag.com.