VHS-c converted to digital, sound, video, found footage.
My avatar presents herself in inauguration, a parafiction, to actualize the psychological melancholic desire to transcend the boundaries of her imposed racialized and gendered identity as well as a political tool and catalytic agent for mapping the material consequences of her presence in territories and narratives she is excluded from.
First founded in 1965, the Cowboy Artists of America (CAA) is a contemporary society of artists and self-proclaimed “brotherhood” dedicated to upholding frontier mythology. Their mission statement stresses commemorating “the memory and culture of the Old West as typified by the late Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and others and through realism and the narrative/figurative tradition, depicting authentic representations of the life of the West.
Can “cowboy drag,” a form of racialized, gendered, affective drag, not unlike code-switching, an embodied passibility, provide a mimetic form of deception and self-preservation?
My most recent ongoing body of work, the foul lump in my throat, is a study in racial melancholia and racial grief, in examining how and why we fixate, even devour that which we are excluded from. In this case, it is my double’s (a Chinese cowgirl avatar) fixation on the American West, a mythological space she recognizes as biopolitically, historically, and thus, residually not belonging to her.
What are the alluring possibilities that result from racial melancholia: self-contradicting negotiations with pleasure and pain, multiplicitous selves, identity and dis-identity formation? The anti-Chinese discourses that have emerged as a result of pandemic bring to light even more relevance to this body of work. The Chinese have a deep rooted history of being denied access to American identity, particularly in the West.
stephanie mei huang is a Los Angeles–based multidisciplinary artist. Her work finds its roots in globalization and the role of displacement in changing perceptions of nationhood, loss, and identity. Through research and practice, she aims to erode the violent mythologies that perpetuate expansionist narratives, in the hopes of fabulating adjacent histories. She uses a diverse range of media and strategies including film and video, installation, sculpture, writing, and painting. She recently completed her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts (2020). She will have solo exhibitions at 4th Ward Project Space in Chicago, IL and the Hauser and Wirth Book and Printed Matter Lab, Los Angeles, CA in the coming year. She will also be exhibiting at Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, CA in the coming year.