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Say Ah II (Registers) (2021)

102" x 186" x 42"

Cash register receipt paper, color ink on paper, lights, foam, plywood, metal hardware, tape, magnets, paint, glue

My experiences and expressions of comfort, belonging or liberation require lanes or registers of legibility, where legibility is most potently determined by commercial viability and/or amenability to "screenification." These registers shape both the suppression and realization of these emotional states, creating my desire for vindication through full recognition or release of emotions, often through the same registers that suppressed them.

 

Each strip of cash register tape here reflects a distinct register offering me some form of deliverance — one register is my childhood or adolescent diary entries, another Asian pop stars, and yet another, Asian American pop stars; my school report cards and degrees, men I've dated, kinds of food I ate when I had an eating disorder, Catholicism, other spiritual practices, personal development gurus, naturopathy, cognitive psychology, white characters in books of fiction I’ve read, clothing brands, family gatherings, specific careers, summer camp experiences, Asian American politicians, European philosophers, contemporary artists, my own artmaking, and so on, are others.

 

The interwoven registers here form an open mouth saying “ah,” where saying “ah” has multiple manifestations and connotations. Physicians may ask us to “say ah” while they peer into our mouths to assess our health. We can sigh “ah” in relaxation, bliss or exhaustion, or scream it in celebration, excitement, surprise, anger, horror, pain, frustration or grief. We can utter “ah” as a pause, indicating hesitation or confusion, or, to express, “Ah, it makes sense; I understand.” Sometimes, our “ah” is clear in its meaning and tone to ourselves and others; at other times, it is not. In all cases, "ah" translates what we embody.

 

Each of my registers here says “ah” — expresses my meanings or identities, emotions and health — in unique blends, indicating differing formulas or compromises effecting belonging, comfort and freedom in those registers. And, each register — from the ostensibly deeply private to the widely public — creates points of inflection — transition, conjugation, or criticality — with others.

 

This installation asks, in the words of Audre Lorde, who found herself at the intersection of at once allied and competing identities: “Which me will survive all these liberations?”

Detail views (click to enlarge):

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