MEASURING THE WEIGHT OF SOULS:
Kacy Jung is a Taiwanese visual artist working with photography, photo-sculpture, and performance, based in San Francisco. Before she began her journey in art, she was working in biomedical science for many years when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an artist. Since then, she continuously investigates how socialization shapes the construction and reconstruction of identity. The subject often intertwines with the manipulative nature of the capitalist system, the anxiety of being part of the disappearing middle class, and her immigrant experience in the USA.
Kacy's works have been shown/awarded internationally. She is the acceptant of the Harlan Jackson Diversity Scholarship from the San Francisco Art Institute and Headlands Center for the Arts Affiliate Artist Program. Her works have been shown at Berkeley Art Museum, De Young Museum in California, Hastings College in Nebraska, and multiple galleries and private collections in the USA and Taiwan. She is currently participating in a two-year-long Studio Artist Program at Root Division Gallery in San Francisco, CA, USA.
The following is a short interview between Hongzheng Han, the curator of Standing Out, the Outstandings, and the participating artist Kacy Jung.
H: 21 Grams Grocery Bag (2021), showing in this exhibition, is a series of four photo-sculptures. Can you explain to us what exactly is a photo-sculpture? And what inspired you to do this series of work?
J: Etymologically, Photo-sculpture is the combination of photographs and sculptures. Therefore, it is necessary for me to create a visual duality in which the materials and forms are also incorporated as content beyond traditional 2D photography prints.
In terms of what has inspired me to do such work: Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, once said in his book Wealth of Nations, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interests." However, today, people are enslaved by the profit-driven society, consumerism, and socio-economic inequality. As a result, the ability to have self-interests and a fulfilling life becomes a privilege reserved for the elite.
In my ongoing series "21 Grams- the Weight of Souls - Grocery Bag", I interview and photograph artists who have left their previous professions in order to follow their dreams of becoming artists. I intend to create an exhaustive catalog of the faces and untold stories of the middle class, especially those who battle between having a remunerative career and pursuing their dreams. This series highlights the power of art, social pressures that burden creatives, the beauty of persistence throughout their career transitions, and the impact of late capitalism on the landscape of the human condition. To me, the keys to being outstanding are embracing the way you are (even when you feel as insignificant as a grocery bag) and keeping fighting for your dream (even when it means tears and sweat).
For the content of the interview, please visit: https://www.kacyjung.com/Blog/
H: What is your understanding of the objectification and thingification of Asian women in America?
J: This is a brilliant question. Usually, I analyze my work as a capitalist critique, but then I realize that the means of objectification are the same, whether it is capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, or imperialism when someone needs an excuse to exploit.
Like what Anne Anlin Cheng mentioned in her iconic book Ornamentalism:
"We know by now that Asiatic femininity in the Western racial imagination has never needed the biological or the natural to achieve a full, sensorial, agile, and vivid presence. Asiatic femininity has always been prosthetic. The dream of the yellow woman subsumes a dream about the inorganic. She is an, if not the original cyborg."
H: Your work explores "the anxiety of being part of the disappearing middle class and her (your) immigrant experience in the USA." Can you tell us where does this anxiety come from?
J: The Capitalist system seems to be tricking us all. In theory, it is merely a social and economic system meant to help people live together. The old promise that hard work leads to a stable life no longer holds true for most of us. A fulfilling life has become a privilege and people are enslaved by this system - some have to work for several jobs in order to receive basic human rights, while others are enslaved by the rat race competition for wealth. Are we living for ourselves and our own realization or are we living for the system? This is where the anxiety comes from.
H: You received an MS in Bioscience from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before you embarked on an artistic journey. What made you change your focus? Can you apply what you have learned in Bioscience to your creative exploration?
J: No other form of expression explores the notion of self and humanity in such a sensational way as art. Because of that, I have always felt drawn to art and dreamed of being recognized as an artist. Raised in a family and society that highly value academic achievement, I was forced to continue pursuing my academic goals. Originally, I moved to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical science. Moving to another country has given me the opportunity to put aside the outside voices and ask myself what I really want. I finally have the courage to follow my lifelong dream.
As for the second question, honestly, scientists and artists have two distinctly different viewpoints of the world; scientists are logical and practical whereas artists are quite spiritual and sensational. The only thing in common is the desire to find the truth. Science has influenced the way I conduct my research more than technique or aesthetics.
H: How are you dealing with this surge of Sinophobia due to the COVID-19 epidemic? Does this situation inspire you creatively?
J: Human history demonstrates that discrimination is never the solution to domestic issues. I can't help to feel that we Asian Americans as well as all the people of color today are still treated like disposable tools -- we are expected to be heavy-duty, low maintenance, and facilitate daily life. Immigration becomes the scapegoat in cases of wrongdoing and punching bags that require elimination whenever something goes wrong. I am not only inspired creatively but also urged to let my voice be heard and presence be felt in this situation.
H: Standing Out, the Outstandings is an exhibition designed to amplify the long-oppressed Asian voice in America. As one of the ten artists in this show, are there any encouraging words you would like to say to our community?
J: Don't stop engaging with the community. Do not give up on trying to change the atmosphere and dialogue if you find it unacceptable. We are all in this together, and I am thrilled to be part of this exhibition.