Courtauld Institute of Art
Supervised by Dr Wenny Teo, Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Asian Art, Courtauld Institute of Art, and Dr Sook-Kyung Lee, Senior Curator, International Art (Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational), Tate
October 2017 –

A wall is covered with an image of a landscape of spikey mountains and a pink ombre sky; at the upper right is an ornate white oval frame surrounding perhaps an eye or a wound. On the ground religious figurines and Bambi are brightly lit.

Huh, Need You
Succulent Humans
Installation view at Art Space Grove, Seoul, South Korea, 9–28 March 2018

My research project examines the work of several contemporary artists from across East and Southeast Asia. Sara Ahmed describes the collective as an affective community oriented towards a particular future, and writes that the stranger is the ‘outsider inside’ that the collective defines itself against. Like Ahmed, I understand the figure of the ‘stranger’ not as essential but as contingent, produced in those moments when we feel or are made to feel out of kilter with that community because of our emotional responses or the futures we pursue.

The works I examine stage a series of meetings with strangers, or ‘strange encounters’. These uncanny, unsettling encounters estrange us from naturalised constructs about desire, the body and the human, and invite us instead to take pleasure in following deviant paths to perverse futures. Among the strangers that appear in my thesis, we meet cyborgs, parasites, aliens, spectres, plant-human hybrids and hydras. My research draws upon a range of critical and queer theorists beyond Ahmed, including Neel Ahuja, Paul B. Preciado, Petrus Liu and Donna Haraway. I also look to overlapping local and transnational histories of art, popular culture and politics to interpret what these strangers have to tell us about the ways we inhabit our bodies and the world, remember the past and envision the future.