Through slippery, malleable, or fantastical material, the four artists in Parasites and Vessels shape new life—some through critique, others through futuristic forms that push visitors to consider how diaspora are created, sustained, and mended.
Reflecting resilience, strength, growth, and interconnectivity, Swedish-Chinese artist Anna Ting Möller has over the course of several years nurtured kombucha cultures, bacteria and yeast, using a “mother”—the term of the original culture—from China. In S/KIN, a handblown glass vessel holds the living cultures as they grow and diminish. While in Möller’s studio, she feeds her culture often through tubular contraptions, sustaining its life. The work offers the viewer the opportunity to ponder the role of caregiver, offspring, and parasite. The material springs from Möller’s identity as an adoptee but also morphs into other conceptual realms, looming in the work is great disappointment.
To further explore possible forms of guilt and non-belonging felt by diasporic children and parents alike, Disgraceful Blue follows the story of a woman and her daughter who both carry the curse of being other—here, their “blueness.” With narrative shifts between characters, and animated by computer animation, the woman bears a daughter with blue eyes; we learn that the mother has tried to hide her otherness, but it has resurged in the next generation. The work is based on a series of dreams Korean artist Young Joo Lee had while she lived in Frankfurt, Germany. While Juna Skënderi’s video work Mami Looking at Babi is a gentle and loving portrait of her mother, through her father’s eyes. Beyond the colorful clips of a 1990’s home video recording, we experience their family’s migration to the United States and the dissolution of their marriage. The work deftly brings the emotional burden of navigating immigration systems to the fore, highlighting the ripple effects of the toll it might take on family dynamics.
As an intervention, Birkin is Chinese artist Alexander Si’s new video in which the artist, over a period of 72 hours, crafts a Hermés Birkin bag. He at once highlights this luxury item, the value of which has increased over 500% over the past 35 years, while pointing to the invisible labor of craftspeople. Birkin was first screened in downtown New York’s Chinatown as a nod to the rich local crafts and repair industry, as well as the replica trade run by African and Chinese immigrants. In Parasites and Vessels, artists latch onto what they find to be otherworldly aspects of their chosen materials. Here, the ‘parasite’ and the ‘vessel’ are figures of persistence. They represent the search for modes of subsistence and community in new environments.
Parasites and Vessels is part of The Immigrant Artist Biennial 2023: Contact Zone held across venues in New York and New Jersey from September 2023 to January 2024. Find the full program here.
October 21 – November 19, 2023
October 21, 2023 | 4-6 PM
Anna Ting Möller, Young Joo Lee, Juna Skënderi, Alexander Si
Bianca Abdi-Boragi, Katherine Adams, Anna Mikaela Ekstrand
150 Bay Street, Studio 206, Jersey City, NJ 07302
*Entrance at 157A First Street
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The Immigrant Artist Biennial presents immigrant artists through various formats, facilitating a platform of support for projects by often overlooked and silenced voices. Founded in 2019 by its artistic director Ukrainian-born, NYC-based artist Katya Grokhovsky TIAB is fiscally sponsored by New York Foundation for the Arts and funded through its host partners, grants, sponsorships, donations, and its Patron Circle.
About Host Partner
Accent Sisters 重音姊妹 is a queer speakeasy Chinese bookstore in Jersey City founded by two female artists.
Anna-Ting Möller was born in 1991 in Hunan, China and is a Chinese/Swedish artist living and working in New York City and Stockholm. Investigating the politics of adoption, they started nurturing a kombucha mother in 2015 and have since explored allegories linked to it—as a caregiver, offspring, contaminant, and even parasite hinging on the necessity of continuous care. Their installations and sculptural work contemplate the idea of private and public loss, ancestry and root-finding. Their work has been exhibited at Jewish Museum, New York, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Gallery NOS Stockholm, E.I.K. Gallery, Yale School of the Art, and Urban Glass, New York. They have been awarded several prestigious grants including from Estrid Ericson Foundation, J.L. Eklunds Foundation, The Sweden-American Foundation, Bengt Juhlin Foundation, Urban Glass, and IASPIS. Möller has an MFA in Visual Art with a concentration in installation art and expanded practices at Columbia University in the City of New York (2023) and a BFA from Konstfack University, Stockholm (2018).
Young Joo Lee is a multimedia artist from South Korea, currently living and working in Los Angeles. Based on research and first-hand experiences, her work interweaves personal experiences with the collective narrative of history, mythology, and mass media, to create fictional worlds that show, distort, and challenge the relationships between them. These magical realist worlds explore the issues of cultural colonialism, alienation, and assimilation processes resulting from immigration and discrimination based on sex, gender, and economic status. In Fall 2023, she joined the faculty at the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University as an Assistant Professor. Lee was a Harvard Film Study Center Fellow in Spring 2023 and a Visiting Lecturer in Animation and Immersive Media Art at the Department of Art, Film and Visual Studies at Harvard University (2018-2022). Lee was a College Fellow in Media Practice at Harvard University (2018-20), a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in Film & Digital Media (2015-18) and DAAD artist scholarship (2010-12). Her work has been exhibited in national and international institutions and film/video festivals. Lee holds an MFA in Sculpture at Yale University (2017) and an MFA in Film at the Academy of Fine Arts Städelschule Frankfurt (2013).
Juna Skënderi is an Albanian-born artist and filmmaker living and working in Santa Fe, NM. Having spent the majority of her life as an undocumented American, she aims to capture the feeling of alienation and devastating nostalgia through her work with texiles, found objects, mixed media, and with video and performance. With support from the Queens Council on the Arts, Skënderi recently showcased The Gravity Experiment in September 2020. A live, experimental documentary about her childhood bedroom, the work in progress is part of a series of video projects about home, family, longing, and the unfaithfulness of memories. Her work has previously shown at Mana Contemporary, Ed Varie, The Border Project Space, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, and TheaterLab.
Alexander Si is New York-based multidisciplinary artist. His practice documents popular subjects in contemporary American culture that exposes invisible labor, class and racial disparity. Working at the intersection of sculpture, performance, video, and installation, Si uses hacking, staging, acting, construction and fabrication to recreate readymade scenarios with his own hands as a way to comprehend, learn by imitation, and integrate his immigrant body into the American dream. The futility and disillusion of exactly replicating/integrating, yet never giving up on it acts as a metaphor for the reality of the immigrant experience, that challenges the cultural norms in this country. His works have been shown with institutions and galleries in the US and Asia like SPACES, Untitled Art Fair, Home Gallery, Chinatown Soup, and Square Street Gallery; and reviewed by publications like Art in America, Hyperallergic, The Brooklyn Rail, BOMB, Artnet, and The Art Newspaper. He has completed fellowships and residencies at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, SPACES, Chinatown Soup, and received grants from Foundation of Contemporary Arts. Si holds an MFA in Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts, and two B.A.s in Architecture Studies and Media Studies at the University of Toronto.
(text & photo courtesy of the artists and The Immigrant Artist Biennial)