Panel Discussion/Talk

Artist Talk | Rachel Hsu

Friday, April 8, 2022
5 – 7PM

456 Broadway, 3rd floor
(elevator available)

Friday, April 8, 5-7PM
6-7PM: Nancy Huang will open with a poetry reading, followed by Rachel Hsu’s Artist Talk, concluding with Q&A with Jiaoyang Li

Please join us for the Opening Reception and Artist Talk of Rachel Hsu’s solo exhibition Heart in My Mouth at Gallery 456.

Exhibition Statement:

Rachel Hsu’s solo exhibition, Heart in My Mouth, attends to the contradictions inherent in marginalized existence and explores the varied politics of and apprehensions toward assimilation and exceptionalism. By engaging language as a material, the exhibition negotiates racial identity and heightens the yearning that emerges from distance and displacement by gradually unfolding absence, relational ruptures, and slippages in translation.

Fetch the Moon from the Seabed (海底撈月) is a long-form poem that investigates yearning and immigration through language and translation. Taking the form of a Chinese language-learning workbook, the poem reveals the emotional and physical exertion that speaking a second language and cultural assimilation requires. Mental exertion is further heightened in the translation of emotional endurance into physical persistence in Tending. The work invites viewers to remove their shoes and walk across an expanse of river stones to experience the fluctuating pain and rejuvenation of reflexology. Arranged according to size, shape, and texture, moments of respite are diffused amongst acute pressure. A reimagined pressure point diagram is available as a takeaway—two distinct narratives reveal themes of tenderness and violence, pain and healing, grief and joy. Excellence is the Goal (the goal is death) further engages coexisting contradictions and calls for a critical examination of the relationship between exceptionalism, assimilation, and American violence. Weighed against Tou Thao’s participation in the murder of George Floyd, anti-Asian hate crimes, the Atlanta spa shootings, and attention to Asian lives, American assimilation and human value are inextricably tied to violence and death. The out-of-reach ship’s bell speaks to a grand, impossible ambition that requires immense effort. Commonly used on modern ships as a warning signal, the ship’s bell also recalls the voyage itself—of leaving and arriving. Just underneath the bell reads: I want so badly to survive this.

Whether it’s a slow traverse across space or an impossible reach, the exhibition Heart in My Mouth demands the effort of translation, healing, and critical self examination to be felt and endured. As Cathy Park Hong writes in Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, “If you want to truly understand someone’s accented English, you have to slow down and listen with your body.” How can we better attend to one another? How can we care for our entangled pain and tenderness?

About the Artist:

Rachel Hsu is an interdisciplinary artist who works with visual art, language, and poetry. She received an MFA in sculpture from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture and a BFA from Western Washington University. She has exhibited in New York and Philadelphia, and her writing has been published in Honey Literary and APIARY Magazine. Originally from Seattle, WA, she currently lives and works in Philadelphia, PA.