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Self Devourer

→DNA Series

Make Room Gallery
Los Angeles, USA

May 25 - June 24, 2023

“To create a being out of oneself is very serious. I am creating myself. And walking in complete darkness in search of ourselves is what we do.” - Clarice Lispector, Agua Viva 

“In the sum of the parts, there are only the parts.” - Wallace Stevens, Parts of the world 

The following text is written by Xin Liu.

The collection of works on view in Self Devourer at Make Room was conceived during various points of the past two years. A scattering of moments and thoughts as I, along with the world itself, entered an unfamiliar, everything-doing-just-fine mode of being and living. I sensed a hint of repression. Every moment, every tiniest decision, every bit, byte and atom, can cause the most dramatic change. Yet, we glide through life. 

All humans share 99.9% of their genetic makeup and are within 50th cousins of each other. 

“Am I Asian American to you?” I once asked a friend of mine, a second-generation Asian American himself. “No.” He explained that I was not because I did not share the same kind of upbringing which formed a crucial part of his identity. Then I asked, “How about your mother?” He paused for a few seconds, then looked directly into my eyes and said, “No, I guess she is not.” 

When I sequenced my genome in 2019, I was overwhelmed by the amount of data produced from a tiny droplet of saliva: 3,117,275,501 base pairs. How can one decipher something that large? 

There comes a point in life where one confronts their own triviality. A common story shared here: students studying abroad till their immigration, marriage and, perhaps, parenthood. I desperately, secretly, hoping to find something special, in the most literal sense, from within myself. Having my DNA tested was thrilling—a revelation of the most forbidden of secrets. 

Sometimes I feel myself falling: a drop of water falls into the ocean. The sensation of disappearing gave me a peculiar sense of calmness. I was part of it. 

To grasp this idea, I made an accordion book that could extend however long needed while allowing me to meditate in the process of printing, gluing, rubbing, and folding. It ended up being a book of about one thousand pages of the tiniest letters that I could read with bare eyes. The volume and weight of these papers were my access to the spells contained in every cell of mine. 

Several years later, when I traveled back to the US after a long trip home, I felt this unshakable disconnect with myself. I struggled to recognize and locate myself among the various identities I am constantly obtaining and losing, and often wondered in my thoughts alone in the studio: an artist, a woman, an engineer, a Chinese immigrant, an Asian American, a daughter… 

Being an artist is quite consuming. The artist has an insatiable appetite. I realized I had become this relentless creature consuming herself. I had to cut her open for examination, for reassembly, for display. She is my only material. The only thing that is mine. 

That was when I dug out those papers I had made, the extra duplicates from The Book of Mine. Somehow, as I flipped through the pages, those unreadable bytes and bits were no longer confusing. These mysterious letters presented me with an opening: a slate of meaninglessness, of intuition, of plausible translation without understanding. And so I began to sew.