My work starts with research-based fictions. From existing socioeconomic and political conditions, I build fictional characters and fabricated narratives that inhabit forms of wish fulfillment and critical amplifications. Visual and aural pop cultural tropes are forced against multiple lines of archival research, obscure concepts are translated into accessible terms. This approach originates in a dual desire: to critique the limitations of existing solutions for pressing social problems, while expanding the imaginary around these problems.
I want to deflate the abstractions built around traditionally leftist positions, and embrace the concept of materialism through explicitly physical forms: exaggerated images, objects, props, costumes, direct gestures and likenesses, that can accessed emotionally. Meanwhile, I am also attracted to mediums that seem “thin” – video, music, performance, paintings on paper – forms that express impermanence. This is related to my interest in propaganda, posters, and sloganeering – manmade objects whose authority is subject to the transit of history, prone to divergent swings in meaning within a single lifetime. Their instability further reveals their intimate connection to human desire.
Since 2011 I’ve been working on bodies of work loosely conceived as The Humours, based on the four medieval humors (black, blue, red, and yellow). Each are conceived as “proposals for new life”. For Yellow, I re-filmed a 1977 Baldessari video as a giallo film, a genre of Italian B-horror, in which I addressed the circularity of victim and victimizer in cultural constructions of the “liberated woman”. In Black, I tracked America’s desire for a return to industrial production as an absurdist fantasy, embedding it in historic Surrealism and early Modernism’s primary forms. Videos were conceptualized as industrial manuals for a far-off future: Safety First (Bad, Don’t Touch, Mercy!), 2013, and The Machinist’s Lament, 2014. The Division Managers paintings further speculated on the future of management, with designs for masks to ease the transition from white- to blue-collar labor.
Now in Red, I have been developing “variations” on The Red Detachment of Women, a ballet from China’s Cultural Revolution, in which a young peasant joins an all-women army in a Communist paradise. I’ve taken the original and reframed it according to the conditions of female labor in China today – particularly as workers within industrialized meat production. With recent pork shortages, the pig has become a concrete manifestation of crises in rising quality of life, resource management, and industrial ethics. Both The Red Detachment of Women (performance), 2015 and The Pink Detachment, 2015, put the original music and choreography back to work, proposing cultural continuity through the production of national value through worker re-education.
In my current body of video and performance work in development, Pink Slime Caesar Shift, I shift focus to China’s beef shortage. It is a symbol of the future, the “modern” – which includes under-regulated industrial and genomics fields. Here, synthetic stem-cell generated burger patties are a banal and infinitely replicable symbol in which cultural memory, covert political resistance, cryptography, the secret history of female programming and languages, the color pink, and biotechnological reproduction without the fuss, converge.