**The Golden Venture artists have declined to be interviewed for this exhibition, citing anxiety about the current political climate and recent shifts in immigration policy. Their names have been withheld from the exhibition’s object labels.
On June 6, 1993, the Golden Venture ran aground near Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY. The cargo ship’s passengers, nearly 300 migrants primarily from Fujian Province, China, were being smuggled into America by a Chinese crime syndicate. Their arduous, three-month journey went from Bangkok to Kenya, and around Africa, before arriving in the US.
After ten passengers drowned and some escaped, the remaining men and women were apprehended by Immigration and Naturalization Service, and either deported or confined to immigrant detention facilities.
While the asylum-seekers waited for uncertain legal outcomes in York Country Prison, Pennsylvania, they began creating paper sculptures employing the traditional Chinese folk art of paper folding known as zhizha or huzhi. As more men began this practice, the sculptures were given to pro-bono attorneys to express their gratitude.
Initially these sculptures were made of what was widely available in prison—discarded magazines and legal pad paper. The figures became more sophisticated as the detainees were allowed to use outside materials and supplies given to them by supporters. The more than 10,000 sculptures were exhibited and sold at fundraisers by members of the grassroots activist group People of the Golden Vision.
This exhibition reflects on the Golden Venture passengers through their paper sculptures, video documentation, and archive materials. At the same time, it explores the circumstances surrounding the detainment of the asylum-seekers, which lasted three years and eight months, as well as the continued legal limbo many have experienced over the past twenty years.
Curated by Andrew Rebatta, Assistant Curator, MOCA
FOLD: Golden Venture Paper Sculptures is made possible with the generous support of the S. H. Ho Foundation, Con Edison, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.