The Incinerator Art Award: Art for Social Change 2020 l Incinerator Gallery, Moonee Valley, Victoria, Virtual
28 August to 1 November 2020
''I am not virus' addresses my pressing concern regarding the surging reports of individual discrimination, particularly of marginalised Asian-Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australians who were evacuated from Wuhan—predominantly of Chinese descent—were quarantined on Christmas Island, infamous for its offshore detention centre. In addition, US President Donald Trump’s politicisation of COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’—potentially an assertion of environmental racism referred as ‘Atmo-orientalism’ (Hsuan)—frames Asian people as atmospheric threats to White bodies and minds.
Familiar scents emit from the painting and the Chinese words in this installation, consist of native plant materials and Chinese incense, highlight the integration of Chinese culture within multicultural Australia. The materials spell out the work’s title as a protest towards the racist narrative of the ‘Chinese virus’.
The painting portrays me as the undead skeleton, with an old white stone attached to my head. The stone was hurled at me about thirty-three years ago and has become part of me. It references my past painful experiences with discrimination, having judged on 'supposedly' cultural differences. Despite this hostile climate, I, the protagonist still offers the viewer some Chinese tea as an indiscriminate gesture of friendship.