My most recent ongoing body of work, the foul lump in my throat, is a study in racial melancholia and racial grief, in examining how and why we fixate, even devour that which we are excluded from. In this case, it is my double’s (a Chinese cowgirl avatar) fixation on the American West, a mythological space she recognizes as biopolitically, historically, and thus, residually not belonging to her. The non-aligned position is not always something you choose for yourself––for many diasporic, melancholic subjects, it is automatic. Migration (forced or chosen) severs centrism––centrism provides distance and discernment. How does the diasporic cowgirl discern the American West? You are constituted within self contradictory positions of identifying, ultimately untethered.
The anti-Chinese discourses and anti-Asian racism that have emerged as a result of pandemic bring to light even more relevance to this body of work. The Chinese have a deeprooted history of being denied access to American identity, particularly in the West. Xenophobic rhetoric that characterized 19th Century “yellow peril,” such as bacteriological racism, germ theory, and animacy theory, is being used now to produce economies of fear to identify the threat of COVID-19 as stemming from the other, outside of the nation-state.
These histories that I have been reckoning with in the body of work are now being violently resurfaced. The yellow body, historically rendered invisible, now experiences a hypervisibility. how to paint a rocking horse, filmed on March 30, is an immediate response to these resurfaced histories––a performative lecture two weeks into the stay-at-home order in Los Angeles, in which I perform auto-theory while painting a mechanized rocking horse, a metaphor for the precariously thin line the Chinese body teeters upon.