New Category: Art Writing and an Introduction to Dewey Punk Pickles

Guy Rose, The Green Mirror (1911). This painting shows my quest for learning to look at art objects, as well as myself, from different angles and perspectives.

Sometimes I feel uncomfortable and threatened at art exhibitions and gallery openings. I feel like a poser, pretending to enjoy something I don’t understand.

“I didn’t study art,” I think to myself, “I don’t know what I am looking at.”

Other times, I feel downright rejected by an object, but don’t know why. I am looking and trying to figure it out, but I always fail. I feel anxious, looking around at other people who seem to know exactly what they are looking at.

“This sculpture doesn’t want me to understand it. It’s an asshole.”

Lately, the works of Lynne Tillman, The Complete Madame Realism and Other Stories inspired me. I have also been reading a lot of other writers, such as Bruno Latour, Kathy Acker, and Chris Kraus.

These writers have challenged the way I look at art objects and how I write about them. As a writer, my instinctive inclination is trying to understand something and to write about it. In my In the Shadow of the Middle Kingdom thread, I explain things through storytelling. However, this strategy doesn’t seem to work with art objects.

Instead of trying to understand them, I decided to do an experiment and just let it be. Instead of asking, what is this supposed to tell me, I pose new questions. What is this making me feel, and why? What’s around it? Who’s looking at it? How is it displayed?

Lynne Tillman, a fiction writer, was asked to review different art exhibitions and cultural events. She created a fictional character, Madame Realism, and sent her to these exhibitions and events. The result is a collection of dazzling, humorous fictional essays that chronicles American culture.

Taking a cue from Tillman, I’ve created a character, Dewey Punk Pickles. For those of you who know me personally, you know that Dewey is the name of my beloved feral cat that I picked up on the streets of Dubai ten years ago. In my stories though, she is a person–she has a part of my history and my sensibilities (she is a writer who used to be a librarian at an art and design university), but she also has feline characteristics, like she curls up and goes to sleep, she purrs, she hisses, she might be bitey with her words.

This thread is an experiment, in my attempt to write about art in a way that is accessible and fun. I would love to hear about what you think. My first post in this thread is where Dewey Punk Pickles goes to see the Cao Fei’s A hollow in a world too full at Tai Kwun, a cultural hub in Central, Hong Kong. Please leave a comment or message me if you want to have a conversation! You can chat with me via my Facebook page.

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A New Category: Book Reviews

 

Besides talking about books, we also enjoy all-you-can-eat sushi. 

My brother Davis often asks me for book recommendations. I’d give him a list of books to read. Months later, he’d come back to me, and want to talk about the details in books such asThe Orphan Master’s Son or The Underground RailwaySadly, I usually have very little to offer—because I had forgotten what I’ve read almost immediately after I’ve finished the book. Oh, I’d remember that the book was enjoyable, clever, sad, or whatever, but I wouldn’t be able to remember the name of the characters or what happened to them.  Oh, me and my terrible memory!

My desire to improve my reading memory and be able to have meaningful conversations with Davis about books are the inspiration for this new “Book Review” category.  I hope you, my dear readers, will enjoy it.

My first review is My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh.

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About “In the Shadow of the Middle Kingdom”

In the recent years, China has become more economically and politically powerful. Taiwan and Hong Kong are both feeling the pressure as China, also known as the Middle Kingdom, forces the world to kowtow to the One China Policy. My blog, In the Shadow of the Middle Kingdom, explores Chinese culture in this volatile climate—there is a real possibility that Taiwan and Hong Kong as we know may not exist in the next decade, if not sooner. This uncertainty has prompted me to explore my heritage. As a third culture kid—individuals raised in cultures that are different than their parents’—I grew up in Canada and returned to Asia as an adult. Through this blog, I will share my experiences in “re-learning” Taiwanese customs and rituals in the context of current events and my personal experience as a Taiwanese Canadian living in Hong Kong.

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About Me

Picture of Kayo Chang Black

Hi, my name is Kayo Chang Black.

As a third culture kid born in Japan to Taiwanese parents, I grew up in Canada and spent my adult life living in the Middle East and Hong Kong. As a result, I am fascinated with hybrid cultures, how immigrants create diaspora communities, and how they live in them.

Before my career as a writer, I was an academic librarian. I worked at universities in Canada, Dubai, Bahrain and Hong Kong. I enjoyed many aspects of my career— helping students find relevant information, building a collection to meet the needs of the university, and building creative communities on campus. I have hosted a workshop to edit Wikipedia pages of female artists and designers, and a 24-hour design challenge to create zines and artist books. I also started multiple blogs and social media accounts to promote the library’s collection and services.

However, a decade later, I decided that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in the library. Instead, I want to directly engage with people about topics that are relevant and important in our world today. To achieve this goal, I enrolled in the M.F.A program in writing at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), to sharpen my skills and expand my connections. In addition to my M.F.A education, my decade-long experience as an academic librarian in global settings equipped me with exceptional research skills. My education and background granted me a fresh and in-depth perspective on my storytelling.

My goal is to write engaging human-interest stories that are relevant in our ever-evolving global village. The working title of my current project is, In the Shadow of the Middle Kingdom: A Memoir. I am using my memoir as a way to explore Taiwanese history and my own hybrid identity.

You can find my work in Art Asia PacificHoneycombers, The Manor and The Standard (Hong Kong).

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