Tucked between the intoxicating fumes of spiced tagines at Zerza Moroccan Kitchen and neat rows of dried Japanese items at Ni Japanese Deli is Mo Kong’s presentation “Lounge of a Prophet” at Cuchifritos Gallery + Challenge Area. The shut proximity of Asian and North African delicacies awakens historical, reductive myths in regards to the Orient contained in the modern meals bazaar that’s Essex Market on Manhattan’s Decrease East Facet—the place the gallery is situated—bringing ahead the present’s essential critiques.
Beneath the exhibition area’s yellowed mild, Kong has constructed what seems to be a modernist curio store or fortune-teller’s parlor, replete with arched doorways and clear black surfaces at countertop peak. Drawers of dehydrated produce native to Asia, akin to dragon fruit and citron, incubate quietly behind a glass show. Unusual gadgets whir with altering temperature and lightweight. Herbaceous steam rises from cupboard orifices.
The scents concocted from Asian elements in Kong’s work have usually induced repulsion or posed a racial risk to the prevailing white world order. But the artist’s embrace of innocuous-yet-disfavored odors doesn’t counsel that the mere tolerance of racialized smells will extinguish anti-Asian racism. As a substitute, Kong’s utilization of the olfactory asks what sorts of racial animus suffuse domains exterior of the seen.
Kong’s constructed surroundings is impressed by the form of the empty area between two strains in a graph that charts a few decade’s value of financial and ecological collapse—a shadow realm that receives little consideration but appears to harbor equal components romance and despair. Fairly than flatten the curve as an antidote, the artist has extruded it in order that all of us could dwell in its queasy dimensions.
Jars of fruits pickled by fictional firm NEW YORKOOL—foodstuffs that the artist predicts will probably be endangered resulting from world warming and nationalist commerce insurance policies—interrogate a hypothetical resolution to preserving “unique” cultures. Directly rejected and retained, prized but disposable, the hermetically sealed, live-fermented meals epitomize what theorist Anne Anlin Cheng has referred to as the method of racial melancholia in the USA. In an age of neoliberalism, tasteful branding and the theater of disaster come as a package deal deal. Hope you’re hungry.