Ei Arakawa (b. 1977, Fukushima) is a queer Japan-born American performance artist based in Los Angeles since 2019. His exhibitions and performances are often created through fervent collaborations with artists (and at times their artworks), art historians, and with audience members themselves. His activities undertake the lo-fi mimicry, duplication, and embodiment of cultural forms—be they architectural structures, art historical legacies, or organizational systems—to reanimate their potentialities anew.
For Don’t Give Up, three living American painters (Nicole Eisenman, Laura Owens, Trevor Shimizu) and a couple of dead ones (Mary Cassatt, Alice Neel) mentor Arakawa about the hardship and reality of being a parent and an artist at the same time, a subject which is still a rare topic for female and queer artists (although Cassatt was neither married nor a parent). Arakawa’s psychic preparation for planned queer parenthood becomes a maze of hallways and rooms of cardboard in the gallery, through which the visitor encounters singing paintings. Together with the LA based composer Celia Hollander, Arakawa creates an insecure opera of “figuring this out” or “figuring paintings” in need of temporarily connected parenting artisthoods.