Our Inner Quarters: Spaces of Work & Care (October 31-December 8, 2023)

Curated by Yin Q and Chong Gu, Red Canary Song (RCS)
Presented by Red Canary Song in collaboration with the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, NYU Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality, and Intersectional Feminist/Queer Studies Collective

On view: 20 Cooper Square, first floor gallery

Tuesday, October 31-Friday, December 8, 2023, Tuesday-Friday, 12:00-6:00 p.m.** and by appointment (please email apa.rsvp@nyu.edu).

Our Inner Quarters: Spaces of Work & Care, curated by Yin Q and Chong Gu, explores the work and history of Red Canary Song (RCS). Founded in 2017 and based in Flushing, Queens, RCS is a grassroots collective of migrant massage workers, sex workers, and allies of the Asian diaspora. 

The exhibition is a reconstruction of spaces of body work and ritual that members of RCS create individually and in community. It traces the origins and core community of RCS through installation, everyday objects, oral history recordings, video, artwork, and a library of zines and books by RCS core members and allied community members. 

On view are the original table altars constructed in Washington Square Park in March 2022 for the 8LIVES Vigil, which memorialized the victims of the Atlanta shootings. The altars feature portraits of the victims’ eyes painted by a migrant Korean massage worker. 

Currently, Red Canary Song is composed of migrant massage workers, sex workers, and allies of Asian diaspora, but most of the original RCS members were/are Queer kink sex workers and scholars. Our Inner Quarters includes a kink space or “dungeon” that reflects the work and lifestyle of many of the collective’s founding members, as well as a reading library featuring publications by RCS scholars and allies.

Curtains are the shields for intimacy and privacy, simultaneously conveying the complex weave of vulnerability and resilience that body workers experience. Inside, three massage tables occupy the space: two are adorned with tools that massage workers and kink/sex workers use in their respective labors, and the third is an altar of our combined totems. 

Oral history, personal possessions, zines, and video offer a deeper connection to the individuals and community of Red Canary Song. Images of the workers’ faces and bodies are purposely excluded, but personal narratives encourage the visitor to interact with settings and objects that may or may not be familiar. 

Accessibility note: The gallery is on the first floor. All gender restrooms are available. Translation of wall text is available in Chinese and Korean. For accessibility needs, please email apa.rsvp@nyu.edu.

Group and class visits: Please email apa.rsvp@nyu.edu to schedule a group or class visit with a list of preferred dates and times, and the size of your group.


**Exceptions to gallery hours: The gallery will be closed on Wednesday, November 22, Thursday, November 23, and Friday, November 24.


About the Curators

Chong Gu (b. 1995, Zhejiang, they/them) works with people, building materials, land, and texts. Their transdisciplinary process, hinged on hand model-making, frames diasporic domesticity and internalized trauma. Tracing social, spatial, and material constructs of our urbanity, Chong’s work wrestles between axioms and senses, molding rooms for incremental resistance shared amongst heterogeneous communities.

Chong has been organizing with Red Canary Song since 2021. Together with their collective, Chong has brought together communities inside massage parlors, on sidewalks, and in parks across New York City. Their work has activated institutional spaces at Abrons Arts Center, Simmons Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University, and Storefront for Ideas at Immigrant Social Services.

Chong currently lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut as a postgraduate fellow at Yale Urban Design Workshop. They hold a Master of Architecture from Yale University and a Bachelor of Architecture from The Cooper Union.

Yin Q (b.1974, they/she) is a parent, writer, media producer, and core organizer with Red Canary Song and founding member of Kink Out. Yin’s writing has been published in BUST, Apogee Journal (Columbia University), We Too, Stories of Sex Work and Survival (The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2021), and Afro Asia (Duke University Press, 2008). Their media work includes “Mercy, Mistress,” an autobiographical pilot based on their experience as a dominatrix (starring Daniel K. Issac, Poppy Liu; EP Margaret Cho), and Fly In Power, a documentary for Red Canary Song.

Yin has brought sex worker art activations to Leslie Lohman Museum, MoMA PS1 (Resident Artist, 2020), Performance Space New York, Brown University (AAPI Resident Artist, 2023), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. They hold a BA from Barnard College and an MFA from The New School. Yin’s artist statement is to just keep going, keep making, to keep writing to empty their pockets of words and dust.

About Red Canary Song

Red Canary Song’s (RCS) work centers on mutual aid, community care, and decriminalization of labor. 

In November 2017, RCS formed in response to the death of Yang Song, a migrant Chinese massage worker who fell to her death from a fourth floor window during a police raid. RCS rallied to protest the police, provide mutual aid to the family of Yang Song and other Asian massage and sex workers, and to advocate for decriminalization of unlicensed massage work and sex work. 

Through the pandemic, RCS provided workers with mutual aid including groceries, legal assistance, funds, and translation services. In March 2021, a gunman targeting Asian massage workers killed eight people in Atlanta. RCS responded to the tragedy by gathering communities together to mourn and protest. RCS vigils have brought together thousands of workers and allies across a range of ethnic, gender, economic, and political orientations to participate in art activations and rituals of healing. 



Monday, October 30, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Opening Reception: Our Inner Quarters: Spaces of Work & Care

Tuesday, November 28 , 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Fly in Power: Screening & Discussion

Tuesday, December 5 , 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Sex/Work in a Global Frame


Photograph of Red Canary Song’s 8Lives Vigil by Mengwen Cao.