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← Jes Fan: Infectious Beauty | Art21 "New York Close Up"

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Showing Revision 4 created 06/18/2020 by Jonathan Munar.

  1. [JES FAN]
    Once you've seen them,
  2. they're lodged in your mind.
  3. Especially thinking of them as
    one of the first few representations
  4. of the Chinese person as a subject.
  5. There's a medical missionary
    called Peter Parker
  6. who traveled to Canton to perform
    the surgical incision of tumors
  7. in the early nineteenth century.
  8. Lam Qua was a really celebrated painter
    at the time.
  9. He was most famous for painting portraitures.
  10. But I suppose that Lam Qua was also celebrated
  11. by how accurate he can paint his sitters.
  12. He's known for this one quote saying,
  13. "What eye no see, no can do."
  14. There's something about Chinese-ness here.
  15. Thinking, like,
    how did Chinese-ness become a word?
  16. What are the technologies that's involved
    in creating this idea of "the other"?
  17. Why does the shoulder need to be bare?
  18. Like, the braid of hair is placed.
  19. It's just so seductive,
    and I was wondering if that kind of seduction
  20. has to come in a way that you're able to see
  21. the sitter as a fellow human.
  22. ["Jes Fan: Infectious Beauty"]
  23. I think it made me really try to understand
    the idea of beauty and seduction.
  24. I think my work has a lot to do with seduction.
  25. Nowadays, beauty is really flat.
  26. There's only one emotion you can emote on
    social media,
  27. which is the double tap, right?
    [LAUGHS]
  28. That there's only a heart shape.
  29. When something is beautiful,
    it's just a flat heart.
  30. But then, when you think of
    beauty in the past,
  31. it's beauty and the sublime.
  32. It has to come with this suspension--
  33. this fear.
  34. It also meant, in the past,
  35. to describe something that was so beautiful
  36. that it almost makes you want to puke.
  37. [LAUGHS]
  38. Originally, I grew up in Hong Kong.
  39. It's very oppressive, being queer there,
  40. just not being able to see yourself reflected
    in society,
  41. nor even within just
  42. being able to see happy, queer adults--
  43. or queer adults in general.
  44. It's kind of not being able to see a future
    extension of yourself.
  45. I had a really rough few years growing up,
  46. trying to find who I can be.
  47. [JULIE WOLF]
    So my understanding of the piece
  48. is that you make it so that it's a glass shape
    of something.
  49. And then, you add the melanin to the piece,
  50. and then fill it with silicon afterwards,
    correct?
  51. [FAN]
    Yeah.
  52. [WOLF]
    What we want to make is melanin.
  53. It's the final physical form that we're going
    to make.
  54. This is called L-DOPA.
  55. In this case, L-DOPA is a really
    unstable molecule.
  56. If you expose it to light
  57. or ambient temperature,
  58. it will start to do something called autopolymerizing.
  59. It's going to start to make a polymer,
  60. which is a repeated subunit,
  61. which is going to be related to that melanin.
  62. So what we're going to do is to make the conditions
  63. as unstable for L-DOPA as possible,
  64. so that we can bypass the biological process
  65. and just get right to the melanin.
  66. So it's not as dark,
  67. but you can see that
    there's the flakes in there.
  68. [FAN]
    So crazy that they're warm.
  69. [WOLF]
    Yeah.
  70. [FAN]
    It would be great to have them...
  71. something that you can identify or trigger,
  72. and sort of hope that is that.
  73. Because the plates you gave me
  74. with the E. coli,
  75. they look exactly like molds.
  76. So let's hope that these will grow happily
  77. and into more slurry-like, you know?
  78. A lot of what I'm trying to do with
  79. what we consider as gendered materials,
  80. or racialized materials,
  81. they're just really, really absurd.
  82. It's like a cooking show.
  83. I have semen,
  84. blood,
  85. melanin,
  86. and pee.
  87. [LAUGHS]
  88. So at the time I was thinking a lot about
    how race,
  89. especially in the U.S.,
  90. is seen as infectious.
  91. Think about China and coronavirus.
  92. Think about SARS and being in Hong Kong.
  93. And think about Jim Crow era,
    not sharing bodies of water.
  94. That idea of it being infected.
  95. These days in Asia, the beauty is smooth,
  96. has no corners,
    does not repulse.
  97. There's something about...
  98. doing this is subverting that balance,
  99. it's showing the labor to acquire that smoothness.
  100. And by showing it,
    it looks like these infectious rings.
  101. But then, also the materials
    that's carried in these bulbous forms
  102. are actually semen that's decaying.
  103. I find that very funny.
  104. [LAUGHS]
  105. It's very much about
    having forms fitting into each other
  106. and somehow evoking a sense of this uncanniness,
  107. but simultaneously so erotic
    that you can't stop.
  108. But to be attracted to it,
  109. that eroticness
  110. seduces you.
  111. It's beauty in the gloss,
  112. and the possibility to see your own reflection
    in it.
  113. At the same time,
  114. you're actually staring at something that
    repulses you,
  115. that actually is considered infectious
  116. or unclean.
  117. My therapist says that I'm so familiar with
    oppression
  118. that danger and risk and oppression makes
    me feel at home.
  119. So I slave myself away in the studio.
  120. Or, like, I deprive myself of pleasure
  121. because I'm not oppressed
    as a queer being here.
  122. [LAUGHS]
  123. So I oppress myself now.
    [LAUGHS]
  124. Because I can't go back if I fail.