photo credit: Coffee Kang
I’m losing my memories of the colors of plum blossoms, the taste of steamed hairy crabs, and the sound of firecrackers during Chinese New Year. I set up my tiny apartment, carefully constructing a reality of an imagined American dream––a new American dream, unique to the near one-million international students sent by the booming Asian economies to pursue higher education in the U.S.
Working with photography, video, text, and installation, my work explores how my experiences moving between China and the U.S. inform my cultural identity.
When I first started photographing my peers, I found myself tracing my subjects’ simultaneous recognition and rejection of their cultural heritage through moments of everyday life. I built a photographic archive of experiences shaped by the diverse immigrant communities, the liberal arts environment, and the landscapes that are unique to the American West.
I grew a fascination towards the myth of the “American identity,” that on the one hand seems static and on the other hand is constantly shifted by the influx of new immigrants. Its parallel “Chinese identity,” at the same time, has been interpreted through China (the nation-state)’s increasingly nationalistic rhetoric as well as its generations of expatriates that formed a multi-faceted diasporic discourse outside of China’s physical boundaries.
The discovery of another archive, one from Chinese immigrants who worked in gold mines and built the transcontinental railroad more than a hundred years ago, led me to investigate the place/displace-ment of their experiences on the map of America’s immigrant stories. By working with both abandoned sites and objects and living oral histories, I engage with notions of tradition, ownership, and collective memory. My work seeks to shed light on a personal journey and hence a hybrid narrative that emerges out of genealogies that are connected not by blood but through land.