Written by Corinna Ghaznavi
High up across the wall rabid dogs are interspersed with bold black slashes over intricate scratches and finely typed words “forget me not.” There is both strength and menace in Gatekeepers, a series of 25” x 25” prints made using etching, intaglio and silkscreen and hung as a mural of 24 panels. The thick black marks recall the Xs of taboo or erasure for they dominate the surface and often obliterate the typed sentence beneath. They bar the viewer from entering yet draw the gaze through their stark presence.
The black signs are punctuation marks. The grey scratched surface, reminiscent of a graffiti wall where many knives an hands have worked to leaves a mark, comes from scoring boards used by Kim Huynh ‘s students in the printmaking studio. The phrase forget me not remains stubbornly opaque. Does it recall from beneath the obliterating punctuation to not server the ties with the past, with what came before the English language defined, contained and proclaimed fact over fiction, history over memory?
Hung low on the opposite wall is a Mobile Space, a dye cut adhering directly onto the wall showing an organic pattern of Chinese calligraphy along whose border a roll of twelve object is mounted horizontally. These objects are curved rectangular shapes reminiscent of top hats. Embroidered on each are text fragments: “we do not descend but rise from our history; facts do not speak for themselves; truth of the past.” Integrated into Mobile Space are images of people working in fields in women in strangely shaped hats.
The hats reverberate in the odd sculptural structures that hang in the room. The white felt shapes, entitled Verbs, are based on the components of top hats that have been reassembled. Huynh deconstructs and reappropriates this symbol of the upper class colonial man, making it into a ludicrous object without denying its previous association with power.
Taken together we have signs of an imposed order as well as fragments of an undeniable “other” reality. Both question meaning and representation. Viewing Gatekeepers we see visual patterns rather than a discernable language, for even the words “forget me not”are regularly interrupted. It is like a cacophony of sound that the listener cannot decipher except as an abstract symbol open to interpretation. Similarly the hats, reassembled into the absurd, ridicules a symbol of power while displaying its core components in a way that suggests trying to make sense of the construct in order to understand its insistent dominance. Mobile Space, inclusive of labor and the ubiquitous, offers a less imposing more fluid and organic means of making sense. Language and representation rely not only on literal understanding and communication but nuances, experiences and the in-betweens, that which slips through reports and grammatical marks.
Madness marked carnival when the world was inverted to empower the oppressed. Mad dogs run rampant among the black punctuation in Huynh’s prints. The mad hatter wore a top hat. Gatekeepers disassembles the structures of language and signs, leaving us with an absurd world that withholds meaning and offers instead silence and gaps. Mobile Space, working to break the silence imposed upon its world, suggests that the fluid reality of identity is best explored through the temporary – memory and experience. That it is in the gaps and in the fragmentary where meaning can be accessed.