For Alice Gong Xiaowen, translation is both method and subject. The ephemeral becomes solid. Light becomes heft. The lowly hallowed. Memory becomes matter. The familiar becomes alien and the domestic industrial. Bodies become texts. She casts dough, pinched with the seams of the dumpling wrappers her grandmother taught her to make, into steel, itself made from pig iron through a process of chemical translation—literalizing the ingots they symbolize. And she does so in the American mills where men once manufactured steel for the railroads before the production was offshored to China—two nations she is from but neither to which she belongs. The resulting figures emerge like entrails freshly excised—the kind that used to be steamed and read—their pinches now sutures straining to hold the impossible together.
They say: Much is lost in translation. Other things are gained. And yet others are, like Gong Xiaowen, caught in between—neither this nor that, here nor there, us nor them.
My thoughts linger on the conceptual connotations of matter, once transformed and interpreted as material culture; on the concerns between physical objects and their object associations...on how diverse references, once translated and sampled through appropriation, mimicry, and abstraction, become new formations— amorphic yet still borrowing from the existing.
Layering sensorial cues-impressions, patterns, scents—into distillations that feel disorienting and ambiguous, I re-materialize by way of indexing. Re-making found fragments I compose to allow space for the uncanny subtitles of cultural diffusion to be observed.
Sculptures and installations stand as symbolic contradictions to reveal discrepancies in recognition; how the universal and common are simultaneously the foreign and disparate, interchangeably embodied in the same forms. Where process becomes a conscious means of reconceiving.
What sources can I remake to hold emotive substance in relaying diasporic nostalgia? To mutate and set the consumption of exotic objects (placeholders of bodies, of cultures) as bidirectional rather than exclusive, hegemonic.
Where presence, as an object manifesting connotative layers that transcend categorical, geographical, and ideological boundaries—stays—in place of, suggesting a body.
Through repetition and iteration I preserve and make visible the elusive sentiments of experiencing cultural liminality—where completion often exists in a state of transition. 20221 Benjamin, Walter, and Marcus Bullock. “Task of the Translator.” Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, 1: 1913-1926, pp. 258-259.
ALICE GONG XIAOWEN