1.Abstract

A –Y: Of ‘British Chinese’ Art takes as a point of departure the work of Lesley Sanderson, and her positionings within and between dominant and marginalised ‘Black,’ ‘British,’ ‘Chinese,’ and ‘Asian’ curatorial and discursive frames during the 1980s and 1990s, to consider the politics and im/possibily of naming ‘British-Chinese-ness.’ ‘Take Outs’ goes on to examine the central narrative of Chinese immigrants in Britain invoked by Anthony Key, Yeu-Lai Mo, and Mayling To, who draw on the motifs and mythologies of the takeaway, and the significations of flags, to engage contemporary discourses around ‘Britishness’ and ‘Chineseness’, migration, hybridity, cultural commodification and assimilation. ‘Outtakes’ looks then at the tactical postures and gestures staged by Sanderson, Mo, Erika Tan and To across a range of works, which deconstruct and play on the consumption of exoticised bodies in and across orientalist visual imagery and narratives, from the anthropological to the comic, the culinary to the cinematic. Whereas much of this work is ‘mute’, chapter four, ‘Translators’ Notes,’ begins with a multi-vocal, multi-screened sound and video installation by Tan, going on to consider the politics and poetics of speaking and translating, the conflation of linguistic competence with cultural and ethnic ‘authenticity,’ notions of diaspora and ‘home,’ and the inevitability of ‘pidgin’ languages and cultures. These essays seek to identify various historical and cultural contexts to inform the coincident and divergent aesthetic strategies and thematic concerns of a number of peer practices, among them my own, which is discussed in the final chapter, ‘Back Words.’ Attempting to locate myself and my writing/practice obliquely, by proxy, in proximity to others, I begin with the premise that our commonality is underpinned less by an indubitable, unwavering ‘Chineseness’ (or for that matter, ‘Britishness’), than a desire to subvert such a notion: to assume instead its complex fabrications and ultimate instability.

A – Y / Writing