As a Chinese-American I have always been compelled by issues dealing with two intertwined but different heritages. One is best represented by my parentage and the way I look, the other is internal, unconsciously dictated by what is considered American. Unavoidable, this conflation naturally leads to issues which further complicate cultural identity. Ideological, economic and political factors play as well, fueling multiplicity that is rarely addressed in describing Asian-Americans.
Thus what I am left with is a seemingly singular description of the "homogenous Asian for a working concept. Representation of Asians and Asian-Americans are extremely limited and those models are reinforced by what has been "mediatized." On the most basic level, I would like to insist that being American does not mean white American, and that Asians as well as other under-represented groups of peoples, have long been a part of American culture and American history. More complicated, however, is the fact that Asians have figured historically, but invisibly. I contend that they are part of the cultural fabric that should be made more visible. In other words, the notion that Asian-Americans are described as part of American citizenry is vitally important.
In my art, my goal has been and will continue to address these issues, and hopefully project some of the complexities of race and culture that are not always apparent.
Reference to Dis-orient Nation, Access All Areas Project sponsored by the Fellows of Contemporary Art exhibited June 6 to July 26, 1998 Japanese Cultural Center, Los Angeles California; Are You Dis-Oriented? Exhibited July 1 - Sept 30, 1998 Bulletin (billboard) locate northbound Interstate 5 Freeway at Main Street, Los Angeles, California
Dis-Orient Nation, the installation, and Are you Dis-oriented? the billboard public arts project, both have metaphoric reference to Jonathan Swift's Gullivers Travels. The metaphor of the traveler and how this person is received and perceived is at the heart of this work. Within each of the two similar images, the ropes which contain the person in his pose is a direct symbol of constraint. In the installation, the physical space in front of the tilted Dis-Orient Nation photographic backdrop allows the spectator to trespass and simultaneously feel threatened by the seemingly falling position of the 18x7 foot image as he/she approaches the figure that has been bound. The second figure li among unidentifiable shadows of spectators for an outdoor bulletin which poses the question, Are You Dis-oriented? This bulletin has been on display for three months on the northbound Golden State 5 Freeway in Los Angeles. More than 13,500,000 vehicles have passed this site during this display. Photography in grand size has always been a powerful strategy for me as an artist. Its great size is a direct and immediate symbol of mediatized power, tied at first for me to the persuasive photojournalistic images in Life Magazine discovered when I was a child, to the current mega-size screen of blockbuster movies which successfully pervades worldwide.
for represent: I plan to add new photographic work for my inclusion in the exhibit, "Represent." This is broadly the exploration of technology as a means to describe, identify, codify and mark specific groups of people, in this case, the Chinese, by relying on the assumed powers that science seems to objectively and dispassionately offer. For example, X-ray technology is being used on a grand scale to detect persons attempting to illegally cross nation's borders. Vehicles are being scanned whole to reveal offenders who hide in secret compartments. E-mail messages implicate the crimes of a software company. Wen Ho Lee, the Chinese scientist, is accused of espionage despite, in part, passing and failing lie detector tests. A university study contends that Asians have a form of perfect pitch because of language. These are some of the scenarios I plan to incorporate in the next new body of work which I hope will further the operative definitions of the word "represent.