Ghost in the Ghost

Tiger Strikes Asteroid, New York

June 21 – July 21, 2019

Tiger Strikes Asteroid New York is pleased to present Ghost in the Ghost, a group exhibition curated by Danielle Wu that brings together artists who engage with the strange and synthetic life of Asiatic “yellow” flesh: Charlotte GreeneTenaya IzuCandice LinTiffany Jaeyeon ShinJuana Valdes, and Elliott Jun Wright.         

Featured artists confront the fraught history of how Asiatic femininity in the Western imagination has been repeatedly evoked through the perfected, manufactured, and assembled material, from anime (Charlotte Greene, Tenaya Izu) and porcelain (Candice Lin, Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin, Juana Valdes) to K-beauty products (Elliott Jun Wright). Anne Anlin Cheng describes this violent and deeply psychological process as “Ornamentalism,” or “the forging of the sense of personness through artificial and prosthetic extensions.” As Asiatic flesh continues to provide an ornamental, technological shell for the crisis of Euro-American personhood, Cheng asks, “What is inside the machine? The yellow woman: the ghost within the ghost.”1

Candice Lin uncovers correspondence between European merchants in the 18th century that described the impervious surface of Chinese porcelain as “a hard white body.” What unravels in her video projection is a perverse history of how objects within globalized trade began to supplant human flesh. Juana Valdes invites a re-examination of broad, uncomplicated terms such as “female sexual objectification” or Otherness. Valdes’s photographs of carefully arranged craft objects and housewares sourced from the 18th century China Trade explore the different materialities, textures, and affects of surfaces that reference Blackness and yellowness. 

Given how the yellow woman has often been produced out of objectness, is retrieval or recovery futile, even as we dare to imagine it? Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin nurtures the wounds of fractured porcelain using milk, which contains casein proteins that act as a weakly biological bonding agent. Elliott Jun Wright assembles heavy signifiers such as face masks, dried anchovies, and jade; this ghostly assemblage troubles Orientalism as a framework by relinquishing the notion of cultural authenticity. Instead, these floating symbols activate what Cheng calls Ornamentalism as a tenacious theory of being. In their sculpture giant dish towel / the Sidekick / pink ombré (2018), Tenaya Izu crochets a Japanimated gaze that hangs from meat hooks; the precarious difference between meat and flesh, the consumer vs. the consumed, materializes an identity that is vulnerable and fungible. Charlotte Greene collages together found objects and images; manga competes with biological formations, inviting new racialized considerations to displaced images. 

Through attending to the history of how objects have been used as humans and vice versa, Ghost in the Ghost invites us to reconsider the complacencies of posthumanism and cyborg feminism while still asking us to heed the very human stakes of artificial beings.

A catalogue featuring essays by Danielle Wu and Anne Anlin Cheng will accompany the exhibition. 

Related programming:
Curator in Conversation with Anne Anlin Cheng
Saturday, June 22, noon – 1:30pm

Join us for a discussion between curator Danielle Wu and Anne Anlin Cheng on the vibrant and reverberating implications of Cheng’s recently published book, Ornamentalism. Focusing on the cultural and philosophic conflation between the “oriental” and the “ornamental,” this study offers an original and sustained theory about Asiatic femininity in western culture. Drawing from and speaking to the multiple fields, from critical race theory to visual culture, Ornamentalism investigates what it is like to exist as a “person-thing” within the contradictions of American life. 

Anne Anlin Cheng is a Professor of English and Director of American Studies at Princeton University. She is an interdisciplinary scholar who works at the intersection of aesthetics and politics, drawing from literary theory, critical race studies, film theory, feminist theory, and psychoanalysis. She works primarily with twentieth-century American literature and visual culture with special focus on Asian American and African American literatures. She is the author of The Melancholy of Race: Assimilation, Psychoanalysis, and Hidden Grief (Oxford University Press), a study of the notion of racial grief at the intersection of culture, history, and law. Her second book Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (Oxford University Press), excavates the story of the unexpected intimacy between modern architectural theory and the invention of a modernist style and the conceptualization of black skin at the turn of the twentieth century. Ornamentalism (Oxford University Press) is her most recent book.

[1] Anne Anlin Cheng, Ornamentalism. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press: 2018), 137.

Tiger Strikes Asteroid’s 2019 Exhibition Program and Ghost in the Ghost are sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).

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