It was below freezing on the Saturday afternoon Flower Spa: Solidarity Outside In opened at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. As visitors squeezed into the tiny triangle-gallery, they were greeted with kimbap rolls and kimchi noodles—a suitably hospitable gesture for an exhibition that aims, in no small sense, to be a sanctuary.
Organizers Red Canary Song (RCS), a mutual aid collective with a base in Flushing’s Asian diaspora, has been battling to decriminalize sex work since 2018. The show partly reproduces a massage parlor owned by RCS member Lisa, a Chinese-speaking migrant who turned to that work after becoming burdened by debt. “During the day, it is the source of my income. At night, it is my home,” she said. “From starting out as a worker and employee to being someone with their own massage store, I’ve given up so much. This road of pain and bitterness I’ve been through hasn’t allowed me out.”
A documentary, Fly In Power, examines how cultural and legal barriers, under the pretenses of hygiene or public safety, can actually entrap workers like Lisa in…