NOW EXHIBITING AT: FLORENCE BIENNALE XIV: I AM YOU
EGO VIDEO, ERGO PERVENIO
WATCHING AND REACHING IN THE AGE OF SURVEILLANCE
Collage on Canvas, 2022-2023
This piece, which represents a culmination of my work over the last two years, began as a commissioned installation for the Williamstown Theater Festival—with the task of encapsulating decades of productions in a new, and emergent way. After searching through the Festival’s Poster Archive, I created the first iteration of the piece you see today. While yearning lovers serve as central figures, as I developed the piece, the leaning lady continued to captivate me. Though the lovers appear to be having a pure, intimate moment, it is the ladies commanding gaze that confers their prominence in the piece. A year after completing the original piece, I found myself tracing sight lines and developing context for this lady’s role in the piece. Her simultaneous position as subject and observer disrupts the violent legacy of the Idealized Kantian Subject in the production of visual culture. In his Critique of Practical Reason, Immanuel Kant advocated that an ideal subject—which he theorized as distinctly white and male—could conquer nature and determine objective reason internally. Kant bestowed his ideal subjects with a “God's Eye View,” able to surveil and pass moral judgment from beyond the gaze. Yet, we know this to be fallacy—even the leaning lady, who’s vantage and clear opulence position her as viewer, cannot escape the watchful figures in the adjacent pieces, or the audience. Her beguiling smirk invites the audience to grapple with the boundaries between curiosity, sight, voyeurism and surveillance—endemic to existing, and reaching for connection, in this modern age of Surveillance Capitalism.
Collage on Canvas, 2023
This piece remains particularly tender to me, as the process of creation coincided with the early stages of my own experience of gender transition: my own crossing. The women aiding each other in crossing the ocean represents the necessity of queer community in making a transition. Yet when these women reach the end of the road they are met with a mirror, unable to cross over, these figures find themselves stuck in the middle of an ocean, staring out across the entire exhibit, left to contemplate the lovers yearning in the central piece. In the far left of the piece, a man and woman’s bodies have been dissected and recombined to create a single being with sight lines traveling in both directions. Whereas the masculine fragment’s attention remains on the yearning lovers, the feminine fragment stares off to the side. Her sidelong gaze effectively removes her from the chain of sight drawn between the pieces in this exhibit, but her disavowal cannot save her from the gazes of the audience. In the same way, my own process of transition has been a tumultuous journey between attempted dissociation and self-erasure. However, in the same way that she cannot escape the recognition of the audience, existing in this current climate as a non-binary, trans person, forces me to engage daily with the bind of validation through recognition, and the violence that comes with visibility.
This piece continues my investigation of surveillance. Each of the figures in Envy stares at, or reaches out for, other subjects—yet if you follow the sight lines from the keyboardist, to the maiden, to the dancers, you will find yourself considering the titular envious figure of this piece. Yet, upon first glance, her glare seems to be directed into nothingness. It is only when you step backwards, and regard the entire exhibit as a fluid and enmeshed piece—her glare is immediately redirected towards the yearning lovers and leaning lady in the central figure. The audience is left to wonder if she glares in judgment at the woman, for intruding on the lovers' moment of pure affection, or if her disdain is saved for the oblivious lovers. In this way, I intended for the piece to serve as a disruption of typical “good/bad” dichotomies associated with acceptability, surveillance, voyeurism, and the whimsical nature of a child's watchful eyes. Whether her glare stems from moral outrage or jealousy, is left for the audience to navigate.
Collage on Canvas, 2023
This piece began as a reaction to Ladies Leaning, Lovers Yearning, as a means to further my investigation of scales of intimacy in visual culture. I chose to focus on TIME, as a direct address to the audience viewing the piece in the “now,” as well as an allusion to the individualistic and scarcity-informed idea of there being a “Man of the Year,” such as TIME magazine puts forward annually. In the same way that Immanuel Kant professed the supremacy of his ideal subject, with “starry sky above and moral code within,” the central figures in TIME contain fragmented hands, reaching out for, and grasping the other subjects. Thus, this piece explores the emergent, connective, and messy possibility of interconnectivity over individualism in the modern age of Neoliberalism and Surveillance Capitalism. With TIME, there is no superior man with a “God's Eye View,” rather, fluid and fragmenting figures reaching out for embrace.