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Yellow Peril (March 2019)

"A couple of images from my performance at 'Being Present' – a curatorial and artistic response (curated by Annie Jael Kwan) to the exhibition 'Speech Acts: Reflection-Imagination-Repetition' (co-curated by Hammad Nasar and Kate Jesson) at Manchester Art Gallery. 'Being Present' asked the question – what does it mean to ‘be present’ as an artist – in a space, in a moment, in relation to each other – does being present invoke a certain scrutiny? Does presence leave a trace?

I started my performance seated inside the gallery in front of a giant magnified sheet in response to Do Ho Suh's 'Who am we?' (1999) that was on display as part of the exhibition – a work composed of hundreds of tiny teenage faces from the artist's school yearbooks that require the viewer to use a magnified sheet to look at the faces up close. In homage of Lee Wen who had passed away a few days before, I started my performance by applying yellow paint to my face while the song ‘Missing You’ by Anyhow Blues Revival played on a tape recorder strapped to my body. I then applied gold leaf to my face and put chillies into my mouth before holding the magnified sheet up and walking through the gallery.

I had originally proposed a few months ago that my performance would involve me cutting myself with a razor in the gallery. However, a week before I was scheduled to perform, the curators at Manchester Art Gallery informed me that I would not be allowed to cut myself or display any signs of blood within the gallery due to concerns that my performance would trigger people with mental health issues or encourage people to self-harm. During my performance, I walked out onto the street, literally steps away from Manchester Art Gallery and cut the words ‘BLOODY FOREIGNER’ into my torso.

I then proceeded to walk back into the gallery (I had told Annie that my performance would end on the street) and pressed my bloodied body against the wall, leaving a bloody mark. I pressed my body right next to the first question posed by the exhibition: How do artists situate themselves in relation to different histories, and those around them? I then left the magnified sheet below the stain so others could use it to inspect my blood and walked off, ending the performance.

Came back up to the gallery 15 minutes later and I saw that my blood stain had been cleaned up and removed. Somehow that erasure hurt so much more than the cuts on my body."


– From a post on my Facebook page dated 23 March 2019

'Yellow Peril' was featured in British Art Studies (Issue 13), click here to read more.

Documentation by Manchester Art Gallery.

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