The Fertile Void

ongoing project

Using a 1930s Freak Show aesthetic, I built an ongoing, evolving, and immersive installation out of my paintings, wooden cutouts, and psychogeographic signposts in PSU’s MFA Art Building. I began constructing The Fertile Void in May 2022 as a memorial for my father. One of the last things he said to me was, If the poop allows. We can spend our whole lives building ourselves up, but ultimately we are governed by shit; every one of us has or will need another person to wipe our ass. Pride dissolves into vulnerability because abjection ablates otherwise implacable boundaries. The installation honors the degenerate lifestyle of rats and worms – “vermin” who make compost out of corpses. Worms are name-shorn, neither boy nor girl, neither Chinese or Filipino or white or 1% indigenous. They are a fearful "it," a refusal to follow the protocols of identity politics. They burrow beneath the surface as poets do, because understanding begins with not accepting the world as it is.

Rats have a symbolic meaning to me due to my family’s history in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In my mother and grandmother’s experiences, anyone could wake up to be labeled as a rat: derided as vermin and carriers of disease, position in society fundamentally rearranged, and experimented upon as though they do not deserve to live.