Archive: Repeat after me (Artist Statement)

Arts Commons, Macalester College, April 2019
| Durational performance and installation


Academia has given me the ability to articulate and think critically, but it has also dislocated me from my mother tongue and my roots.

Using papers that I have accumulated from classes at Macalester, this installation represents a body of knowledge that engulfs the viewer. The crumpled papers signal a sense of ambivalence. At the same time, their biomorphic shapes reveal the vitality of the information that academia often ‘flattens.’ The installation enlarges over time, becoming increasingly alive yet flimsy. It evokes anxiety and fragility, reflecting my fragmentation within English-speaking, West-located academic training. The performance relates the corporeal body with academia, exposing the jarring and violent disjunction that takes place in academic institutions. Repetitive motions of learning lead to embodiment, then produces violence on the body itself.

Even though the installation was ‘destroyed’ after my performance, though the week-long process of building the ‘sculpture’ was a durational performance itself, the aftermath of this experiment feels intriguing. The scene evokes questions such as: what happens to this body of knowledge post-academia? Who is accountable for it, now that the body has physically left and the marks it inflicted remain? The exposure of tape pieces reveals, or rather, refuses to conceal, the artificiality of the sculpture. They are indeed just papers. I am interested in this dissonance: the journey of the papers from being endowed with meaning to mere material objects. The papers, my body, and academia are all subject to this questionable paradox between intellectual value and materiality. The biggest failure of academia is its inability to reconcile this paradox.

Now, repeat after me:*

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Henry Louis Gates Jr. “ ‘Authenticity,’ or the Lesson of Little Tree,” New York Times Book Review, November 24, 1991: 1, 26-30.

José Limón “Representation, Ethnicity, and the Precursory Ethnography.” In Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present, ed. Richard G. Fox. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1991. 115-135.

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Magretta, Joan “Fast, Global, and Entrepreneurial: Supply Chain Management, Hong Kong Style: An Interview with Victor Fung.”

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Carlson, Dennis. “Stories of Colonial and Postcolonial Education.”

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Mohanty, Satya. “Drawing the Color Line.”

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Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Grove Press, 2008.

Gordimer, Nadine. July’s People. Penguin 1982.

Smith, Zadie. On Beauty. Penguin 2007

…and more…


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