"As a Chinese American artist, I dialogue with and challenge the affective racialized, gendered constructions that codify my body and identity as “harmless” and “non-threatening” within the hegemonic West. I am interested in how my presence has the capacity to disarrange systems of prediction based upon otherness and threat. I see slippery, chameleonic identity as a form of infiltration: a soft power reversal within hard architectures of power. I explore these subjects through a diverse range of media and strategies including film/video, installation, social interventions, sculpture, writing, and painting.”
This body of work is an ongoing study in racial melancholia and racial grief, in examining how and why we fixate, even devour that which we are excluded from. The foul lump is a reference to John Yau’s poetic series “Genghis Chan: Private Eye” (1989), in which the Chinese American narrator states: “A foul lump started making promises in my voice.” If we consider the foul lump to be a repulsive object that hijacks the Chinese American subject’s racialized body for the vocalization of others, we must consider how the lump arrives in the larynx in the first place. In Freudian melancholia, melancholy is pathological and enduring, in which the ego wishes to incorporate the object into herself through devouring.
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. Through racial melancholia, how do we navigate new conditions from which we speak and new ways of inhabiting our subjectivities? How can we begin to consider melancholia as a realistic response to the insidious underbelly of American history?
„how to hobble a young horse explores the slippery terrains of animality, constraint, and consent, in both taking on the figure of the Chinese cowboy/girl and the horse in the American (U.S.) West. huang shifts animalities, in becoming them, rejecting them, and transmuting them. The body of work includes performance, film/video, sculpture, painting and photography. The exhibition is named after huang’s most recent performance, in which huang’s cowboy avatar Stirrup Steph with her animatronic horse, Diamond, reenacts and distorts a found video tutorial of a cowboy demonstrating in disconcertingly domineering and gendered language “how to hobble a young horse.” Stirrup Steph inscribes themselves into the script in the way that they inscribe themselves into the frontier of the American West, a mythological space they recognize as biopolitically, historically, and thus, residually as not belonging to them. Through racial melancholia, how do we navigate new conditions from which we speak and new ways of inhabiting our subjectivities? How can we begin to consider melancholia as a realistic and productive response to the insidious underbelly of American history?“ – stephanie mei huang and A. C. Smith