Lucas Gallery, 185 Nassau | Exhibition: April 23-27 | Reception: April 26th 7:30pm
Continuous Reward is a multimedia and performative project that explores how cuteness in viral East Asian subculture impacts the construction of Asian-American identity, and observes it as a case study where subculture was pushed into mainstream attention by female-dominated adolescent productive-consumerism. My research for this project focuses on kawaii (cute) and idol culture collectively promoted in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, particularly through teen-girl-driven Japanese Harajuku and South Korean idol subcultures. Continuous Reward mimics girlscape-focused economies by identifying and reducing their commercial formulas into my own fictional brand Pink Label. Pink Label parodies and places the young girl as the center of consumer culture, and exists as a small-scale franchise manifesting in an online shop, billboards, posters, weekly zines, and satellite space, for seven months leading up to the final exhibition in April 2018. It makes use of mascots, sales, and daily updates in effort to maintain the consumer’s interest. The final exhibition was installed as a store, and the gallery’s floor space was divided into a linear and controlled shopping journey, à la Taipei night markets, trendy Instagram cafes, and Ikea. Pink Label claimed to deliver personal content that genuinely cares for its readers, despite its systemized approach to distribution and heavy branding. For seven months, Pink Label lived a life of its own with its collaborators and viewership, branching out from its fictional lore into the real. The fictional brand’s documentation and narrative adapted to feedback from and interactions with the public. Within the first day of Pink Label’s satellite exhibition, a waving lucky cat was stolen from the installation. Since then, the Missing Cat motif worked its way as a major plot point of Pink Label’s narrative to reference darker feelings beyond the bubblegum pink and sparkled exterior, such as through printable ‘grief-stricken’ missing cat posters, which were stapled onto bulletin boards and street lamps within a 1-mile radius of the theft.
Through the hands of enthusiastic ‘fangirls’, visual representations of these subcultures have made their way to North America, allowing subculture to enter pop culture. Asian-Americans starved of Hollywood (and other media) representation seek a transnational ‘Asian’ identity; there's identification within ‘Asian pop’ music, film, television, and other media despite whether or not the material originates from their own mother country. Growing up in NYC within a low-income, first-generation Chinese immigrant household, these are the sort of visual environments I’ve grown up around and that greatly shape my interests and academic pursuits. Perhaps because of my own inability to fully reconcile and understand both sides of my diasporic origins, I’m constantly seeking and re-examining Asian popular cultural products, particularly those that were influential from the 1990s-2000s. In one sense, Pink Label is fanfiction: a narrative combining elements of pre-existing entities, the subcultures, personal details, and fantasy, out of my (conflicted) love for the genre. My works paint the recent trend of saturated new visual East Asian exports that disrupt traditional local aesthetics, but become the new tradition for individuals growing up outside of their mother country. These visual elements reflect an environment moving faster than its people, and my work explores its relationship with what also gets lost, detached and degraded through this immense oversaturation of visual information.