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dawn_chorusiii: the fruit they don’t have here

A video installation by artist Sofía Córdova that eschews traditional documentary methods to reveal the nuanced complexities of migration, created through a two year-long storytelling project in partnership with Chinese Culture Center

Image caption: Sofía Córdova,

film still from “dawn_chorusiii: the fruit they don’t have here”, 2021

On view at 41 Ross

December 3, 2021-January 29, 2022

Wednesdays-Saturdays, 11am-4pm

(SAN FRANCISCO, CA, November 2, 2021) The Chinese Culture Center (CCC) and artist Sofía Córdova present dawn_chorusiii: the fruit they don’t have here, a video installation at CCC’s 41 Ross gallery that is the culmination of a two year-long, community-based storytelling project. dawn_chorusiii foregrounds the stories of six Bay Area women who journeyed to the United States as refugees, fleeing lives made untenable by political and religious persecution, extreme poverty, and gender violence. Córdova, whose work often muddles distinctions between the documentary and fantastical, intermingles these stories and infuses them with cinematic devices to both enhance and complicate their hard truths.

The project was inspired by a previous collaboration with CCC through the San Francisco Art Commission’s 2018 public art project A Body Reorganized. Córdova was interested in raising questions about the meaning of sanctuary and how it exists in the cultural imagination through the lives of six individuals from various cultural backgrounds living in the Bay Area. CCC arranged for her to meet a Chinese dissident, Tian Shi, who is part of a community of asylum seekers from China’s ‘89 Democracy Movement. Shi was so moved by the interaction and creative process that word soon spread in the community about the project. Several women reached out to Córdova on their own to simply share their experiences and be heard.

Córdova was struck by the need to make space for women from around the world to share their stories of displacement and migration—a perspective often overlooked and unrecorded—and proposed the idea of a long form storytelling project to CCC in order to create a space for immigrant and refugee women’s voices and to engage them in a creative process to amplify their experiences.

For dawn_chorusiii, Córdova and CCC worked through community-based agencies such as Gum Moon Women’s Residence and El/La Para Trans Latinas to find women interested in sharing their stories and participating in an artistic collaboration. Córdova worked individually with each to craft a retelling of their journeys from China, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and more. She also invited the women to come together for a series of painting sessions so that each could create a large, fantastical backdrop against which Córdova filmed them as they told their stories.

In the final video work, the storytelling takes on layers that seem drawn from the imagination as Córdova jumbles and intermingles the stories, animating some and interspersing them with photos shared by the women that Córdova then painted over and altered. The stories, told using WhatsApp audio recordings, phone interviews, and scripted lines, are accompanied throughout with music meaningful to each woman.

Córdova writes in her artist statement: “There are holes and omissions in this telling. Not all is told or told to conform with realism. This work is about the birds, rivers, trees, fruit, forests, apartment blocks, and the people and streets of six lives and the forces that lead one to leave the treasured and familiar behind. This work stresses that the future and the present and the past are never apart from one another and that borders only serve those in power.”

"It is so important to amplify our diverse communities' stories through creativity,” says Jenny Leung, Executive Director, CCC. “CCC is committed to uplifting underserved artists' voices for a just and equitable future."

dawn_chorusiii will be projected on a large wall at the back of the 41 Ross gallery, a neighborhood art space and interactive studio embedded in San Francisco’s Chinatown, co-run by CCC and the Chinatown Community Development Center. For Córdova, showing this work in the heart of Chinatown is an important element of the work. One of America’s oldest neighborhoods, Chinatown has served as a sanctuary for generations of immigrants, making it a relevant and site-specific venue for the project.

The approximately hour-long video work will be looped and is constructed in such a way that visitors can enter and exit the story at any point in the narrative. The gallery, located at 41 Ross Alley in San Francisco, is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 11am-4pm, and is free to visit. More information at

dawn_chorusiii: the fruit they don’t have here, also titled coro_del_alba iii: la fruta que no tienen aquí and 破曉歌聲 iii: 這裏沒有的水果, is the final iteration of Córdova’s dawn_chorus series, a docu-fantastical weaving of stories speaking to climate change, gender violence, capitalism, empire, migration, and where they intersect.

About Sofía Córdova

Sofía Córdova (b. 1985, Carolina, Puerto Rico; based in Oakland) makes work that considers sci-fi as alternative history, dance music's liberatory dimensions, climate change and migration, and most recently, revolution - historical and imagined - within the matrix of class, gender, race, late capitalism and its technologies. Recent works have included performance, video, music, sculpture, taxidermy, and installation. She is one half of the music duo, XUXA SANTAMARIA. In addition to discrete projects, performances, and albums, the duo collectively scores all of her video and performance work.

Córdova’s work has been exhibited and performed nationally and internationally at SFMOMA, the ASU Museum, The Berkeley Art Museum, the Vincent Price Museum, the Wattis Institute, and was featured in 2018’s Bay Area Now at San Francisco’s YBCA. Her work is in the permanent collections of Pier 24 and The Kadist. She has recently participated in residencies at Eyebeam, New York; Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito; Mills College Museum, Oakland; and the ASU Museum in Phoenix. She has also composed and choreographed performances for the SF Arts Commission, Merce Cunningham Trust, and Soundwave Biennial.

About Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco

Chinese Culture Center (CCC) is a non-profit arts organization established in 1965. CCC elevates underserved communities and gives voice to equality through education and contemporary art. Rooted in San Francisco’s Chinatown, CCC is a loud and creative voice to uplift social and economical transformation. We provide a safe environment for artists who champion activism, resiliency, and healthy communities. In doing so, we shift dominant narratives, empower change, and reimagine our futures.


This community-based project is supported by:

Creative Work Fund, San Francisco Community Challenges Grant Program, California Arts Council, #StartSmall.

Additional Support: The San Francisco Foundation, Fleishhacker Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, SF Grants for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission, Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities CARES Relief, California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant, SF Arts and Artist Relief, and CCC Contemporaries.


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