Far Away, From Home, 2024
Marine-grade plywood, acrylic, steel, ABS plastic, vinyl on lightbox, 62” x 98” x 23”
Installation shots by Lee-Daniel Tran

It has been almost six years since I moved to the United States from China by myself. I am considered a resident alien by the government–not because I’m a green card holder but because I pass the USCIS “substantial presence” test which is based on the total days that I’m physically present in the US. The act of passing this test is to reenact the disappearance of oneself by virtue of absence from one’s home country. It’s easy to get mixed up reorienting oneself to a new place when the precarity of displacement is enmeshed in the promises of unknowing the old self and becoming a new self. I remember the sheer desire I had early on to hide my accent and repel any foreignness that inhabited my body. For immigrants of color and queer individuals, I’ve always wondered if the assimilation and categorization of ourselves becomes unavoidable, and even necessary, as a means to reclaim, reinvent, and rebuild from the preexisting identities that we are bound to lose.

How can I map queer desires onto the tapestry of an ever-evolving home? To what extent do the intertwined threads of my native and adopted cultures become blurred and indistinguishable? How can I complicate the experience of living in a state of liminality and in-betweenness without essentializing it? Far Away, From Home delves into these questions and expands on notions of home, immigration, identity politics, diaspora, and queerness in the public sphere. The installation re-interprets a curio cabinet reminiscent of furniture in my parent’s home in Hunan. The shelving unit isfilled up with backlit photographs of “tattooed” latex balloons on one side, and their paper collage doppelgängers on the opposite side. It also features laser etched panels highlighting scenes from Huaniaohua, a traditional type of Chinese Bird-and-Flower painting, as well as etchings of the original tattoo imagery I used on the latex balloons. The four supporting legs are modeled after balusters in porch railings and stairways that I have encountered over the past year in Massachusetts.

The title of this installation takes inspiration from the essay “Far Away, From Home: The Comma Between” written by filmmaker and writer Trinh T. Minh-ha. The installation explores Trinh’s musings on otherness as both “a site of return” and “a site of change”. By displaying a domestic cabinet-like installation in the heart of Chinatown, my work recreates an act of displacement embedded with counter narratives of resistance and resilience against flatness and simplistic interpretations. Far Away, From Home offers a patchy, slippery, and disorienting aesthetic experience with the hope of prioritizing care, queer joy, and openness while troubling the binary systems that limit who we can be and what we can build together.

Far Away, From Home is commissioned by The Rose Kennedy Greenway in celebration of Year of the Dragon. The installation is currently on view at Auntie Kay & Uncle Frank Chin Park through March 2025.