Language, writing, translation, and literature are all kind of their own thing, but broadly, "words" offer a different kind of opportunity to introduce citation, play, subversion, and double-meanings into or alongside the work. Language creates an affective field. It is also a structural framework. I learn, or steal, a lot about physical form from literature: how to complicate texture, rhythm, negative space, and organize research in embodied and irreverent ways.
I return often to Deleuze and Isabelle Stenger's takes on "stuttering" language, where the "stutter," as a kind of glitch, decomposes and deterritorializes language to push it toward its limit. I am monolingual, I speak a colonizer's tongue, I do not trust language or that it brings us closer to apprehending anything. The stutter, through an almost erotic rupture of function, minorizes a language from within. It is a way to challenge language's relationship to historical formation, how language is usually understood to inform or shape reality. The totally exploded form that [Conclusion and Findings] eventually takes in the two-channel video installation unable to Title was very much born of this line of thinking. Replace "language" with "form"; how do you transfer the thing that a stutter does, the world that it makes, to objects, movement, image? The title of my figurative sculpture otherwise, spite: 1: whores at the end of the world / 2. from every drop of his blood another demon arose (1829-1840) is structured after the title of Marcel Duchamp's final piece Étant donnés: 1° la chute d'eau / 2° le gaz d'éclairage, which, like otherwise, spite:, evokes the Courbet painting L'Origine du monde. The citations embedded in the title of otherwise, spite: extend the psychic space of the sculpture beyond its two physical subjects and brings us back, in a way, to the supposed beginning of everything, with language and logic stuttering through my research across continents and time.
I work with materials, ideas, and stories that over years I build relationships with. An object or material lives with me for any period from a few weeks to a few years until it expresses how it wants to live. A block of stone, a bone, a knife, a broken chair, an image, a certain kind of beeswax or clay or gel medium. I used to do a lot of intentional/cerebral brainstorming around this--writing, making charts, attempting taxonomies, whatever, trying to establish a diagrammatic logic in the connections--but I have found that the most profound assemblies come to me gnostically. Sometimes a certain phrase or image will get stuck in my head for months or years--"to attend violently," "look what you made me do"--and the materials will fall into place around that. Like tetris, but messier, where you are hacking off toes to make the shapes fit.
Transformation of material and surface is exciting to me because it is a way to push against the apparent constraints of a material or object. I hardly ever engage in creation from the point of total genesis--most of the making is an intervention of some kind. I carve, and then I suture. In that way it is a kind of problem solving. "Difficult" is an interesting term. You are proposing that as a viewer's experience; for me, "difficulty" is also central to the process of making. I have avoided developing concise systems of construction/fabrication because I have found that the perpetual struggle of non-mastery is what gives my work a sense of life and honesty. Nothing should feel perfunctory or clever. When the creation of every piece, against physics or finances, is an absolute struggle, this also yields the moments of serendipitous breakthrough and rupture that drive me on into the next project.
"Grotesque" is a term sometimes applied to my work, but it is a subjective judgment for which I have no internal scale. Slightly different but often conflated, I think what may be termed the “abject”--that which jerks us toward the oblivion of our bodies--is essentially a space of creation and renewal, but our fear and revulsion are rooted in internalized oppression and repression.
In creation myths, something is born--the world, an empire--that eventually becomes too sublime or awful to fully apprehend. Karen Barad describes the past, present, and future as all threaded through one another in a complex topology, and within this topology, a beginning is perpetually overlapping an end, and/or vice versa. A she-wolf created the story of Romulus and Remus by saving the twins from death: an act of mercy that, later on, very much pleased Mussolini, and led to other consequences and endings that loop perpetually to this day and all of our following days. A story is powerful because it can be taken any which way. In European fairy tales, the wolf symbolizes sexual threat, self discovery, the threat of the minor subject's self discovery, the thing that must be killed. I like villains. I remain taken by the closing line from Angela Carter's story "The Werewolf," where Little Red Riding Hood invites the town to murder her own grandmother, who has turned out to be the wolf who attacked Red in the woods: "Now the child lived in her grandmother's house; she prospered." There is not really any moral here, it is a story about time and returns. The wolf skulls in my work displace the bones of a reliquary saint, indicating the immanence of a complicated symbol that cannot be linearly or morally consolidated.
I return occasionally to entreating my mother as my collaborator because she is the person I have learned everything from, and also have had to unlearn everything from. And her mother before her. Loyalty, also cruelty. Pain, suffering, punishment, and love are inextricable in these relations. My mother's forms of knowledge production are so different from mine, her relationship to language is so different from mine, in your typical immigrant way but also at the level of context. "What is it to inhabit a world?" asks Veena Das. "What does it mean to lose one's world?" Das proposes that, through trauma, "one ceases to trust that context is in place." I have never had to lose my world in the way that my mother has. But working with her, through performance or conversation or writing, is a way to reach toward the horizon we share. Her wisdom, trauma, and particular limitations have the potential to activate certain regions of material that I have no access to. Whatever generational knowledge or trauma lives in my body, I embrace but also am not trying at this time to identify or understand. The idea is to protect or respect it by not seeking its edges.
Kimball Art Center, Park City, UT
26 August - 27 November 2022
Machines of Desire
Simon Lee Gallery, London
21 July - 26 August
52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone
The Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT
6 June 2022 - 8 January 2023
Vaster Than Empires
Friends Indeed Gallery, San Francisco, CA
14 July - 18 August 2023