Deformation and Reformation: A Modern Taste of Asian Identities
“Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.”― Edward W. Said
De:Formal is pleased to present Deformation and Reformation: A Modern Taste of Asian Identities, an exhibition exploring the authentic representation of Asian arts and culture. Western imperialism and colonialism have created a catastrophic impact on the preservation of the diversity of Asian cultures. When the Western media or Hollywood only focuses on tokenizing the portrayal of Chinese/ Japanese and Korean identities, other Asian voices are left unheard or misrepresented.
Deformation and Reformation: A Modern Taste of Asian Identities is a show dedicated to changing an outdated dynamic where Western canon dictates the narratives of Asian lives.This exhibition centers around the idea of contemporary Asian art as a collective whole and also as distinctive individuals. By challenging the power of Western intervention, the deformation of the originality and authenticity of the diverse East shall end. Our goal is to see a reformation where “Asian identity” is no longer a singular term in the Western political, social, and economic glossary. Instead, “Asian identities,” the abundant and rich cultures of the East, can be finally put on the table for careful and respectful appreciation.
Echoing BAITBALL02’s theme on “the act of sharing food and with the practice of commensalism and conviviality,” we invite our viewer to imagine each piece of work of the ten Pan-Asian artists as a dish: Alice Yuan Zhang’s immersive and interactive work, Remembering Our Roots (2021), explores the concept of edible plants inherited from her Chinese origin. By utilizing AR technology, Zhang situates memories, myths, and visions directly into the physical environments to create a time portal where her ancestral wisdom is connected and preserved. Keith Lafuente’s Spring/Summer 2021 (2021) showcases the cultural connection between the environment and fashion. Amplifying the juxtaposition of wearable arts and the ever-changing nature, Lafuente reimagines attending a modern-day banquet where fashion is more than a dress code; instead,
it is part of the ceremonial ritual. Mengqi Chen’s HTTP0.5 (2020) serves a nearly grotesque image of a uterus-like snake ovulating small egg-like heads. Surrounded and observed by four bigger heads, Chen’s work is a cultural delicacy that promotes originality, uniqueness, and unapologetic femininity; Guanyu Xu’s The Dining Room (2018) challenges the concept of geographical and cultural gaps between the West and the East by expanding a dining room into different parallel universes. In this well-calculated and well-decorated dinning room filled with photographs,
Xu invites his dinner party guests to join a fantastical adventure to experience the intersectionality of queerness and racial identities.
Natasha Tontey’s work, The Order of Autophagia (2017-2021), is a daring performance of decolonizing cannibalism. Shaking off the colonial gaze or the noble savage narrative, Tontey challenges the viewer to rethink the fetishization and delegitimization of the morbid.
Umber Majeed’s work, Trans-Pakistan Zindabad (Long Live Trans-Pakistan) (20xx), is a cold “dish” of reality that might be hard to swallow for some viewers. Researching her family archives, digital telecommunications, and mechanism of the Pakistani tourist industry, Majeed investigates
the current urbanization claims in Lahore, Pakistan, to amplify the South Asain diasporic identity;
Bahareh Khoshooee’s #Everchangingfacade (2020) serves a full plate of visually stimulating “cuisines'' inspired by the Iranian perspective of the migrant experience. By projecting colorful and distorted eyes, mouths, donuts, herbs, and other subjects onto an “organically” formed sculpture, Khoshooee examines the multidimensional concept of Asian identity. In this ever-changing facade, the viewer is invited to reimagine the idea of “self” in relation to collaged fictional memories and alternative facts. Qianqian Ye and Xiaowei Wang’s Chinese Homophone Search (2020) is
a daring and satirical challenge to the censorship of the Chinese government. Contemporary Chinese glossary allows similar-sounding terms to replace each other when facing the threats of censorship. By using this search engine, sensitive Chinese phrases such as 自由 (freedom) can be translated into 紫鱿 (purple squid) to avoid governmental control. Through this work, Ye and Wang showcase the wisdom of Chinese netizens and their rich knowledge of the interchangeable links between Chinese linguistic culture and food.
Annette Hur’s Bad Fruits (2020) is a combination of poetry and painting. Channeling the Surrealist dream writings, Hur’s story on intimacy and grief, life and death, captivates the reader. Corresponding to the simple language of the short story, Hur’s abstract rendering of a piece of rotten fruit continues the storytelling through a parallel visual journey that twists both the concept of time and space.
Press Release by Hongzeng Han
Hongzheng Han (b.1992, Nanjing), preferred pronounce is they/them, received their BFA with honors from Parsons, the New School in 2017, and an MA with distinction from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU in 2019. During their study at the IFA, Han co-founded IFA Contemporary Asia, the first pan-Asian art forum at NYU. Han is now an independent curator, a board member at Asian Creative Foundation, and a research assistant at the Matthew Barney Studio in New York City. Focusing on queer and racial identities, Han has been invited as a guest speaker at University of Edinburgh, University of Michigan, the Brooklyn Rail, and the Asian Creative Collective. Han’s recent curatorial works include Within Global Isolation: Asian Artists in America; Runaway World 2020: Ten Chinese Artists Group Show, Beyond Borders: Art in the Post COVID Era, and Standing Out, the Outstandings. Han is also the curatorial assistant for the Asia Society and Museum’s 2022 exhibition, Mirror Image: A New View of Chinese Identity.