On The Face of It: Nikki S Lee’s Layers
Christine Mok’s work in theatre and performance studies, critical race theory, and American cultural history focuses on the people, places, and performances where the limits of theatrical representation rub up against the limits of racial representation. This talk is a meditation on failure, frustration, and Asian American visuality through the photography and photographic practice of Nikki S. Lee. From 2007 to 2008, Lee, the Korean-born, New York City-based photographer, traveled to different cities around the world, from Prague to Madrid to Bangkok to Rome. In each city, Lee asked street artists to draw portraits of her on translucent tracing paper. Back at her studio, Lee arranged the images, layering drawings by artists in the same cities, one on top of the other atop a light box. She then photographed the resulting portrait. While each image, the composite of three separate drawings, from each city, is different; the multilayered images enact the difficulty of reading and seeing the Asian/American face. Defying its photogenic surface, Lee’s Layers performs the complexity and complicity of racial surveillance by frustrating viewers and reviewers alike across continents, uncovering the burdens placed upon the (Asian/American) face of the other.
Christine Mok is assistant professor of Drama and Performance in the department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati. At UC, she is the Director of the Helen Weinberger Center for the Study of Drama and Playwriting. She is currently completing her first book project, which uses intermediality and theatricality as critical optics to examine the shifting politics and poetics of inauthenticity in contemporary Asian American performance. She has published in Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, and PAJ: A Performing Arts Journal. She received her Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies from Brown University and holds an MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from the Yale School of Drama.