By OCA-GS Intern Dylan Hartano
Northwest Asia Weekly Special Issue
September 6 marks the official debut of Bruce Lee’s Ascending, a permanent art installation in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library (OUGL) at the University of Washington (UW). The event is sponsored by the UW Department of American Ethnic Studies, OCA Asia Pacific Advocates for the Greater Seattle Area (OCA-GS), and the Bruce Lee Foundation, with additional support from UW Libraries and UW School of Art History and Design.
The artwork, which appears on OUGL’s main staircase, was created by Han Eckelberg, now a graduate student in the University of Washington’s School of Communications, when he was an undergraduate in Art and American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington. Eckelberg created the project for a course with Professor Whitney Lynn in the winter of 2020. He initially installed it at OUGL before the pandemic started. It quickly became popular with the student body and was named Best Artwork at the 2020 UW Maker Summit.
According to Eckelberg, Bruce Lee Ascending pays homage to Bruce Lee who studied drama and philosophy at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1960s. Eckelberg was particularly inspired by Lee’s famous quote “When one reaches artistic maturity, one assumes an intangible form”. “This artwork reminds all students that, as Bruce Lee’s famous quote suggests, hard work and discipline are required to acquire any artistic knowledge.”
“As a central gathering place for our UW community, OUGL is the right place for the timeless message embodied in Bruce Lee’s Ascending,” said University Librarian Simon Neame.
“Aligning with the library’s values to enrich the student experience, we are honored to provide a permanent home for this incredible piece of art that will be seen by students for years to come.”
For UW student and OCA-GS intern Brooklyn Hose, Lee’s personal story is particularly moving.
“Bruce stood up against systemic oppression, especially against Asian Americans in the media . . . he articulated the fact that BIPOC is not a cartoon.”
In 1973, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a close friend of Bruce Lee, legendary basketball player and former Lee student, wrote: “Bruce is an amazing martial artist, but I also respond to him for other reasons. .. he was hurt by racism, he said so. . . he worked with people who developed kung fu characters and were supposed to be on TV. He would be perfect, a master working his art . . . but whatever Whoever decides these things, Bruce makes it clear that they don’t think the Chinese can be heroes of America. They went beyond Bruce and gave the role and star to David Carradine.”
Despite Lee’s superstar status, Dr. Rick Bonus, chair of American Ethnic Studies, noted that “there have been numerous attempts to create works or monuments in honor of Bruce Lee, the legendary martial artist and international icon.”
“Bruce has inspired a lot of people, so it’s great to see it finally happen.”
In 1992, the University of Wisconsin did not allow the screening of “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” on campus. In 2007, Jamil Suleiman proposed to build a Bruce Lee Garden, but it stalled.
Since OUGL is designated as a “UW only” site, a valid Husky card is required to enter to view the installation. A limited number of non-UW tickets are available.If you are interested, please register https://forms.gle/LsVeAgrGbo886dbp8 or contact Dylan Hartano [email protected].