ME is an installation that records different stages in understanding my queer identity. I started it with a romantic experience and moved on to reconstruct myself. Through 3 months, I gradually realized that my identity disconnections in social, cultural and theoretical context cannot be resolved in a short time. Therefore, I perceive ME as an ongoing gallery that pertains to emotions, questions, and possible solutions regarding my own identity.
At first, I want to discuss the structure of the installation. I chose to organize it in a temple-like form and the main structure is life-size with layers of images and fabrics, forming the walls of the installation. The installation converges into a source image which guides me to build up space around my struggles in accepting myself in the past months. At the same time, hanging portraits on the string adds a ritualistic element to the process and thus withdraws me from drowning in the past. Thirdly, the temple for me is an ambivalent space that it worships distance but also worships interaction. The more I interact with it, the more I feel integrated with space, the creature, and myself; but the more other people interact with it, the more remote I feel within myself. Therefore this temple gives me a chance to stay true to oneself but also a chance to stay away from myself.
Next, I want to explore the time aspect of the installation, especially the portraits. All the portraits have recorded changes in emotions and struggles from memorizing a faded excitement, to self-questioning and to contemplation. At the beginning of the project, I have experienced an urgency to retrospect the love I have experienced and thus I quickly applied sketches, watercolor and calligraphies to visualize and verbalize self-identification -- whether I fully accept my queer identity or not. As the emergency faded away and I added new images which were finished at a more distant observation of my past experience, to hide the old elements. For the portrait, I used my photos as references but I also generalized them so that they could symbolize the public and public gazing. By referring to the old photos, I had a chance to evoke old memories and retrospect who I was and who I am. For a long time I have refused to use my photos in long hair because of my old appearance and my identity. This process, however, at least helped me to confront this discomfort in changing the appearance. Besides choice of the photos, the material I used for them also inform time in the installation. Half of the portraits used papers from another installation I did last year which aimed to record my ecstasy about love. But in this installation, I transformed them into identity struggles and by reusing the projects before, I tried to reclaim my experience of love and identity.
Besides time, the installation can also be interpreted in space. Standing inside the installation, audiences can experience it from left to right. By looking back and forth of the layers, I wish to manipulate the information audiences can access and the time they spent in this space. On the other hand, interacting with space from front to back, the audiences will be presented from the title of the piece to the tranquil stage, and finally to the core of the installation. The transition of color from black, white and blue to dark red, blood red and flame red points various intensities of this space. By walking through the temple, I wish the audience to experience increasing anxieties and how I have felt through 3-months of identifying myself.
Designing this installation was a tough experience for me. To transform myself into an installation requires me to confront an old self, a questioning self, and a vulnerable self. The construction process requires a proper artistic language that would translate my personal experience into a public setting. The more I practiced this language, the more I accept the fact that I cannot find a definite answer or explanation for my changing sexuality. Though this experience may not speak to a larger community, this designing process and changes in attitude helped me relieve myself and continue to explore my identity in the future.