Land of Exile
Location: New York
Video, Video installation
The Land of Exile depicts Chinatowns on Satellite maps, which represents Chinese migrants have expanded their footprints to rest of the world and build their own communities for the last two hundred years. They still kept their own culture and traditions after generations, the Chinese migrants is a group of people that are neither “Chinese” nor fully the citizen of the country they reside. Chinatown, as their community and land, becomes this in-between place for themselves. That’s why I call them the Land of Exile.
I often use the methodologies of mapping and cartography to explore the rationalities among those irrational things and events. In this series, I used Google’s cartographic applications, such as Google Map and Google Earth, which gives us the power to unveil the untouchable and unseeable places with only a few clicks of our fingers. The surveillance view of multiple videos on the screen at the same time, brings the viewers to a more powerful and immortal position to see and monitor multiple places at the same time. By utilizing Google as an artistic tool and a source of inspiration, it becomes part of the narrative that Google, as this gigantic technological monopoly, created a free tool, but essentially as users, Google has turned us into data points, and eventually become part of their data cloud. Therefore, every single user becomes part of a bigger ecosystem. In this case, every viewer also becomes the contributor of artistic narration.
My intention is to use Google’s technology as a tool to narrate the existence of Chinatown and Chinese migrants in the Western World by revealing the location of Chinatowns in relationship to their cities, and the “fake” Chinese-looking architectures in Chinatowns represent the western stereotypical imagery and idea of what is “Chinese” or even “Asian” in general. The surveillance camera view symbolized the early Chinese immigrants’ communities in the west were watched and pushed to the poorer corner of the city. When the viewers watch the Chinese communities through the monitors they would realize they are in that position of monitoring. The early immigrants realized that they can only protect their communities by producing a “Chinese” image for the West to consume. All the Chinatowns have buildings been designed with exaggerated Chinese pagoda, palace or gate décors, which quickly become the exotic sites for white tourists. Some of these architectures are purposefully shown in the videos, but broken apart into the pixel cubes. The purpose of pixelating the satellite view of Chinatown is to blur these imageries and blend all the Chinatowns together as one, that the viewers may not even think these videos took places in Chinatowns around the world, but seeing them the same as the rest of the world. The Google Earth interface is also part of the narrative tool to tell the story of Chinatowns and immigrant communities.
Both my wife and I had experienced the Sinophobic hate crimes against us during the pandemic. I have to try my best to create a safe space for my family and try to avoid some of these conflicts, but at the same time we stood up for our fellow Asian communities, we have been to many protests to support Against AAPI Hate Crimes in New York City.
The Land of Exile series was created during the pandemic, which has given me the opportunity to think about myself, my identity, my heritage, and how can I use my way to stand out for our community, and how to create a hub for us to against haters and racists. I am one of the founders of Asian Creative Foundation, a non-profit organization to support Asian creatives, where I started a program called ARTAZION that is a talk series to advocate Asian art and design community and discuss different creative subjects. I want to build a community for Asian heritage creators, who are under-represented in this Post Pandemic time. We also had a few panel discussions to talk about the crisis of Asian community that we all need to speak out and stand out for each other.