Gay paper cut-outs and 3D-scanned Chinese restaurants tell stories of Asian immigration
In Hong Kong, Stories of Asian Immigration have taken over Blindspot Gallery in a group show called Soy Dreams of Milk
Stretched across a cardboard screen, a video shows a woman washing the carcass of a small white sperm whale. Standing thigh-deep in the water, she passes a sponge over the whale, which died alone in Newfoundland, with no trace of his family seen.
This video by Asian American artist Patti Chang is titled The prayer of the lost lake, is just one of the touching novels in “Soy Dreams of Milk,” a group exhibition at Blindspot Gallery in Hong Kong about the joys and sorrows of diaspora migration. Focusing on Asian immigration, the show brings together six artists working through video, digital shows, traditional Chinese paper cutting, and more, in a thoughtful curation by Blindspot Associate Director Nick Yu.
‘Soy Dreams of Milk’ at Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong
Patty Chang, The prayer of the lost lake. 2016. View installation. Courtesy of the artist and Blindspot Gallery
Drawing parallels between Asian immigration and the American dream, Yu told Wallpaper*, “Many people migrate for a dream, for something that leads them.”
Alongside Zhang are artists Michael Ho, Lapp Si Lam, Tan Jing, Zadi Ixa, and Shiadi, each exploring unique and eye-catching stories of migration.
Synthetic view of “Soy Dreams of Milk”. Courtesy of the artist and Blindspot Gallery
Some of the stories are delightful, like the vibrant monolithic scraps of paper by Shaanxi artist Ziadi. Xiyadie, who grew up in rural China and learned his craft from the women in his family, moved to Beijing after becoming gay. in GateHis largest work in the gallery, Two Men Mating in Front of Tiananmen Square; Xiyadie’s jubilant spectacle has reclaimed a national symbol linked to a turbulent history. It is a dialogue between traditional forms and symbols, hopeful self-expression, and the transition from the projected monochrome palettes of Chinese paper-cuts to pastels in rainbow colors, from tradition to joy.
There is this joy and this aspect of migration. Migration for a perfect good life, for love, for a better dream, explains Yu.
Michael is, Cowboy Renaissance2022. Courtesy of the artist and Blindspot Gallery
Migration is the rich, intergenerational story of the Asian community. For many discerning second-generation artists, there is a sense of yearning for something intangible and a delicate balance of identities. German-Chinese artist Michael Ho, for example, paints on both sides of his linen canvases, and his paint bleeds from behind to create ghostly backgrounds for his works such as Cowboy Renaissance: Picture a pair of western cowboy boots. The interplay between the two painted faces of the piece creates stress and meaning, and speaks to the pressures of the artist’s dual identity as a second-generation queer immigrant.
With single-channel digital video Lap-See Lam and Wingyee Wu mother tongueA fictional relationship between a first-generation immigrant mother and her second-generation daughter is explained against the backdrop of the exotic designs of Chinese restaurants in Sweden. Lam, whose family opened a Chinese restaurant after immigrating to Sweden, has scanned several restaurants in the country to make up her blurry spectral vision that is narrated in a mixture of Swedish and Cantonese. Set in front of a three-dimensional physical sculpture of a melted and unfinished dining table created from the Lam Wu survey, the work expresses a longing for understanding and belonging – interrupted by the pressures of the digital and real worlds.
View installation movie mother tongue 2018 and Table (Wingshing)2020, by Lap-See Lam and Wingyee Wu. Courtesy of the artists and Blindspot Gallery
Soy Dreams of Milk ends with a poem narrated by a dog’s lens. Shenzhen-born artist Tan Jing’s grandparents emigrated from Thailand in the 1950s amid a wave of sinophobia, returning to their homeland they barely remember.
Visitors pass through the sensory synthesis hanging lab, a tall entry lined with cracked porcelain tiles and a weed-scented beading curtain, toward a video clip — blurred by begonia-adorned windows. Throughout her life, Tan’s grandparents rarely share stories of their migration to China. After her grandfather’s death, she reimagines him as a dog roaming the unfamiliar streets of Lingnan and Nanyang through her video. Viewers are thrown into excruciating disorientation as they jack up to watch the video through a small hole in the glass window, and are forced to stoop as they watch first-person footage of the dog as it roams the streets in search of familiarity.
View installation from lap trasing hanging, 2021, by Tan Jing. Courtesy of the artists and Blindspot Gallery
“Dreams of Soybean Milk” is only a partial celebration of diaspora migration, as for any family that has chosen to migrate in search of a better life, joy is only part of the experience. For many, it is also confusing, lonely and full of nostalgia for a place you knew or wanted to know before.
But above all, it is hopeful. Your dog in a tan may eventually find his way home. The whale on the beach was honored with death by Zhang, the mother, rather than his parents. These are not all success stories, but they are loving stories of perseverance. §