Raid the Icebox Now with Triple Canopy in collaboration with CFGNY
How do artworks and design give rise to nations and national identities? What do they tell viewers about what—and whom—to value? How has the United States been shaped through the consumption and display of goods and the subjugation of people whose labor or likenesses mark them?
This installation considers how early European Americans defined themselves through products from and portrayals of China, whether porcelain bowls or travelogues, out of admiration or animus. The video and sound installation are linked by an epistolary narrative that involves time travel, fictions about China and Chinese people, and a “house attack”—a colonial-era targeting of white elites who pursued wealth and power at the expense of their community.
Can I Leave You? is named after a song from the tradition of Sacred Harp, a particularly democratic form of choral music that originated in New England in the late 1700s. This song describes the anxieties of immigration and raises the possibility of abandoning nationality as the source of belonging. A recording of “Can I Leave You?,” made with the vocal ensemble Ekmeles, provides the basis for the video’s soundtrack.
For Can I Leave You?, Triple Canopy commissioned the fashion collective CFGNY (Concept Foreign Garments New York) to create Synthetic Blend V, a capsule collection and campaign video. Prompted by the combination of European American and Chinese objects in Pendleton House, CFGNY’s collection considers how Asian American identity is forged and perceived, especially through the global circulation of styles and materials. CFGNY worked with tailors in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam—Nguyệt Huế Nguyệt, Bùi Thị Mỹ Linh, Bùi Thị Lan Anh, Da Trần Văn Tân, and Namsilk Tailor—to develop designs. These garments provide an uncanny reflection of the objects that surround them. They also give the impression of the house being inhabited—or haunted—by those who don’t belong in such a “typically American” environment, and whose presence might have a transformative effect. CFGNY’s and Triple Canopy’s videos are projected in the Spalter New Media Gallery, and the garments are installed throughout Pendleton House.
Triple Canopy, based in New York and founded in 2007, is a magazine devoted to sustained inquiry and creative research through collaborations with artists, writers, technologists, and designers. Issues are published online and include digital works of art and literature, public conversations, exhibitions, performances, books, and software. Triple Canopy’s installation will also lead to an issue of the magazine that includes works by additional artists, writers, and researchers, to be published in the spring and available at www.canopycanopycanopy.com/.
CFGNY (Concept Foreign Garments New York) is a New York–based collective and fashion label founded in 2016. Begun as a dialogue between Tin Nguyen and Daniel Chew on the intersection of fashion, race, identity, and sexuality, CFGNY continually returns to the term “vaguely Asian”: an understanding of racial identity as a specific cultural experience, combined with the experience of being perceived as other. Rather than represent what it means to be “Asian” in the singular, CFGNY encourages the visualization of the countless ways of being in the plural.
In Spalter New Media Gallery:
New York, 2007–present
Can I Leave You?, 2019
Concept and direction by Alexander Provan, Matthew Shen Goodman, and C. Spencer Yeh with Hannah Whitaker and Meredith Morran
Narrative by Matthew Shen Goodman and Alexander Provan
Video editing by Meredith Morran with C. Spencer Yeh and Micalea Durand
Videography by Jess Y Lee
Audio production and editing by Alexander Provan and C. Spencer Yeh
Performance of “Can You Leave Me?” by Ekmeles
Sound design by Daniel Neumann
Voiceovers by Neil Rogers, Alex Beck, Gibson Frazier, C. Spencer Yeh, Prem Krishnamurthy
Courtesy of the artists