If asked whether or not 14th-century Chinese outlaws and 1980’s West Coast Chicanos were cut out of the same cloth, most people would probably say that they’re different as sunrise and sunset, but Christopher Brand begs to differ. Even though these groups are separated by an ocean and a couple hundred years, Brand used their similarities as inspiration for his 108 Heroes of Los Angeles project.
The project takes its title from the 108 characters recruited to a revolutionary cause in a centuries-old Chinese novel, Shuihu Zhuan, about marginalized people who elected to be branded as “outlaws” and band together rather than buckle to a tyrannical dynasty. This text was translated into Japanese in the Edo period (and called the Suikoden) and became sensation due to the similar oppressive treatment of the empire’s working-class citizens. The impact of the Suikoden can be seen through how it influenced both literature and, to our delight, Irezumi.
If you want to learn more about Brand’s 108 Heroes of Los Angeles be sure to watch the lecture that he did at the Japanese American National Museum, check in on his website and Instagram to see more of the groundbreaking series, and even consider ordering the Perseverance catalogue, which contains his thesis about the project as well as writing and work by other acclaimed artists and tattooists who make work that is meant to persist.