Hometown Hero (Chink)
multimedia installation; single channel video, soft sculpture, hand upholstered recliner, 2015-2017
Since the 1970’s, the immigrant population of the American South has grown dramatically. As the region’s identity evolves and becomes more global and diverse with each generation we must re-examine the lingering presence of Confederate imagery that proclaim heritage. These images not only remind us of the region’s troubled past, but they also perpetuate the romanticized myth of the Lost Cause; they cling to an alternate reality, a re-written history frozen in time. Being raised in a small town known for its prominent role in Civil War history, I — a mixed-race Korean American — was taught to revere a past to which I felt no connection.
The work reveals hidden personal histories, allowing others to peer into a space that many like me occupy: a state of psychological exile, of in-between, of longing yet not belonging. By challenging the notions of heritage, Southern nationalism and “traditional” American culture, I hope to facilitate honest conversations regarding race, alienation, and assimilation.
Hometown Hero (Chink) is an installation consisting of three parts: a single channel video, a custom upholstered recliner, and a fabric-covered room furnished with other upholstered items. By utilizing chenille-like upholstery fabric for the treatment of the entire space the installation seeks to inform the audience's sense of touch. Each object and surface is soft, inviting the participant to touch and linger in the space. The video playing on the television monitor, Twinkies, Wasps, and Avatars, attempts to deconstruct and reconcile the identities of “Asian American” and “Southerner.” Meanwhile the large recliner, with its looming imagery of the Confederate flag, dominates the space. It sits facing the television, acting as a physical stand-in for the [cheap] desire to return to an idealized fictional version of America - the wish to “Make America Great Again.”