Los Angeles, December 2, 2020
stephanie mei huang features in a recent interview for VoyageLA. When questioned about her early life which saw her move from Wisconsin to Indiana, then to Yohoama, Japan, and to Shanghai, China, all within the first six years of her life, huang responded:
"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. The foul lump is a reference to John Yau’s poetic series “Genghis Chan: Private Eye” (1989), in which the Asian 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
Asian American subject’s racialized body for the vocalization of others, we must consider how the lump arrives in the first place.
In Freudian melancholia, melancholy is pathological, 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. My avatar presents herself in inauguration to actualize the psychological desire to transcend the boundaries of her imposed racialized and gendered identity as well as a political tool and catalytic agent for mapping the material consequences of her presence in territories and narratives she is excluded from. Can “cowboy drag,” a form of racialized, gendered, affective drag, not unlike codeswitching and embodied passibility, provide a mimetic form of deception and self-preservation? What are the alluring possibilities that result from racial melancholia: self-contradicting negotiations with pleasure and pain, multiplicitous selves, identity and dis-identity formation? The American West as a space of expansionist transition has provided much of the resonant images and rhetoric for “Americanness,” the American cultural imaginary, and biopolitical governmentality. The projected myth of the emptiness of the Old West imagines America as nation state as a palimpsest to be overwritten and repeatedly re-inscribed with exclusionary ways of inhabiting. These histories that I have been reckoning within the body of work are now being violently resurfaced. How do we grieve for complementary negative space and naturalized absences? The yellow body, historically rendered invisible, now experiences a hypervisibility."
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