Half and both: on color and subject/object tactility
How is my personhood contingent on my objecthood? To what degree is my mixed race constructed as a fracture not only between Asian/white, but between subject/object? In an effort to answer these questions, this essay engages with the artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk, using her work on porcelain as a touchstone to unfold the spaces between subject and object that would assume their easy distinction. Trained in ceramics, Datchuk works with porcelain as an ode to her Chinese heritage and as a meditation on the allure of “porcelain skin.” Like me, Datchuk is an Asian American woman with white ancestry. Like Datchuk, I am drawn to the way porcelain’s features–delicate, oriental, still, object – seem to reflect Asian femininity. When I see blue added to the white base of porcelain, as it is in classic Chinese ceramic work, I feel both colors act as an adhesive, wedding the ceramic surface to connotations of my race and gender. Am I a subject or an object? Drawing on recent debates on Asiatic femininity and object-oriented ontology, this piece offers a personal reflection into the forms of relation that open up when we depart the subject/object divide–the or–in favor of the touch–that adhesive and–that holds the subject and object together. This and is a tactility I feel through porcelain’s colors. Thus, I read the formal elements in Datchuk’s work with my biracial identity in mind, inviting an exploration into the and–the touch–that fastens my subjectivity to a type of object life.
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