Saturday, September 14, 2013

Shanghai, China

Artist's Statement

            In 2011, I had the opportunity to visit Shanghai for a month, as my cousin and his family had temporarily relocated there for work. Because they had lived there four years and had a housekeeper/cook and driver who wanted to tell you everything about Shanghai, I got to see China from a local – yet distinctly American –point of view.
            While the things I photographed would seem mundane and probably make most Chinese people wonder why anyone would photograph what I did (my driver shook his head many times), to me it was a new way of seeing how American my way of thinking is. Through the photographs, I invite the viewer to reflect on American and Chinese culture, evolving socio-economic class and identity.
            For example, some of the things I photographed include: Utility outlets. Items at grocery stores such as unrefrigerated eggs. Engrish signs, clothing and ephemera. Women holding hands not as lesbians but as friends. Squatty potties. Crossing the street and driving in traffic with many close calls. Cramped sidewalks and streets. Untrained optometrists selling $15 prescription glasses. Chinese people asking to take pictures with Americans and flashing the peace sign.
            Starbucks, McDonald’s and other American fast food proliferation. Eating at a German restaurant in Xintiandi, a section of the French Concession, in Shanghai, China.
Old and new buildings. Rich and poor neighborhoods. Signs written only in English in my family’s neighborhood (Pudong) versus the usual bilingual Mandarin/English signs. Apartment buildings with poles extending from under each window to dry clothes as space is limited. People walking around in their pajamas to flaunt their social status. Brand-name knockoffs such as Burberry scarfs with tags that say “Made in England” in plastic packaging that says “Made in China.” BMWs displaying new wealth coming into the country as a way for the nouveau riche showing it off.
            My goal is to give non-native viewers a glimpse of Shanghai not shown in popular media and to show Chinese people one American’s way of seeing China.

18 images/videos | Emma C. Johnson

Target Bag
Oil on Canvas, 17.5 x 23.5 in., 2004.
Read story about it.

Water Under the Bridge
5-Color screenprint on Arches paper, 12 x 12 in., 2003.

Eyelash Curlers
1-Color screenprint on Arches paper, 192 x 31 in., 2003.

Garbage Bag in Paris
C-print, 8 x 10 in., 2002.

Untitled (Chelsea, NYC)
Digital C-print, 6 x 4 in., 2007.

Memories and Projections Suggesting the Present
Color digital video (Film Still), 7’10”, 2010.

Abortion/What Would You do if They Attached a Violinist to You?
Oil on canvas, 16.25 x 37.5 in., 2003.

Hmong Village Outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand
Digital print, 6 x 4 in., 2011.

"Elite Smile Dental Clinic" (Thailand)
Digital C-print, 6 x 4 in., 2011.

Redcrosse and Una
Digital image, 4 x 6 in., 2009.

Duessa and Redcrosse
Digital image, 4 x 6 in., 2011.

Website, dimensions variable, 2008.
Read Artist's Statement.

The Eiffel Tower Drawing Project (relational aesthetics)
Graphite and pen on paper, 143 2 x 2 in. drawings, 2009. Drawings of places by 143 strangers.
Read Artist's Statement.

Made in England/Made in China
Digital C-print, 4 x 6 in., 2011.
Read Artist's Statement.

"Shaving" (film still)
30'0", Video, 2001.
 Read Artist's Statement.

Memories & Projections Suggesting the Present
7'10", Digital Video, 2010.

Read Artist's Statement.

The Snickers-Bar Absurdist from Emma Johnson on Vimeo.

The Snickers-Bar Absurdist
Video, 17'0", 2003.

Parasite Project (relational aesthetics)
Standard office paper, 8.5 x 11 in., 2008.
Read Artist's Statement. 

Oxytocin molecular drawing
Red Sharpie on Strathmore charcoal paper, 11 x 17 in., 2014.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Real and fake

The relationship between real and fake,
value and values, what really matters
and is it different for everyone?


Knock offs.

Before I left for China, I always wanted the real thing. I never bought into the trend of buying fake Louis Vuitton purses in the early 2000s. I wanted to be authentic—the real thing. I wanted my things to be nice; and if I couldn’t afford something I would do without until I could afford it. I didn’t try to copy anyone or pretend I was something I wasn’t. I felt not buying fake designer purses and clothing was an outward reflection of this value.

Column on minimum wage

Column: September 4, 2013, p2.