When faced with a discussion about the problem of human trafficking, Jonathan Fung had the same reaction that almost everyone else does: “What can I really do?” Then he found a way to spread awareness.
At a global leadership conference seven years ago, Jonathan Fung was inspired by a discussion of human trafficking. But he had the same reaction that almost everyone else does: “What can I really do?”
“You feel powerless,” said Fung, who teaches film production at Santa Clara University. “But it kept sticking with me. I knew I needed to do something. My niche isn’t going to capture perpetrators or aftercare. I care about those things but they’re not my passion.”
But Fung is an artist. So over the past seven years, he has been applying his talents to spread awareness and initiate a call to action to eradicate human trafficking.
His latest piece, PEEP, will be showcased by San Jose from Feb 1-March 12 at Parque do los Pobladores (Gore Park). Its unveiling is timed to coincide with the arrival of nearly one million people expected to converge on the Bay Area to participate in Super Bowl 50 activities.
In PEEP, Fung alters a metal shipping container to resemble the exterior of a peep show with carnival-style lettering and enticing colors in order to give visual and auditory form to the often unnoticed and unseen atrocity of human trafficking. The shipping container is a symbol of global trade—including the trade of human beings—and serves as a metaphor for standardization, commodification, and mobility.
Port-size windows on one side allow viewers to see hundreds of wooden toy blocks with images of children on them with each face symbolizing a stolen childhood and the loss of innocence. On the other side, the windows reveal rows of operating sewing machines that evoke the mind-numbing working conditions and struggle for survival of those forced into labor. Within this hidden underworld, one’s human rights are stripped away. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom.
Fung is committed to bringing hope and transformation through the arts, faith, and justice. His most recent installation, Coolie, currently on exhibit at SCU’s de Saisset Museum, examines the prevalence of forced labor during California’s Gold Rush of 1849. Some of his other recent works include Down the Rabbit Hole, a video installation that was exhibited in San Francisco and exposed the darkness of sex trafficking, and the award winning film Hark, which continues to be used in various schools and churches to spread global awareness about trafficking.