Chen Zhen was a Chinese artist living in Paris from the 1980’s having decided not to return to China after the Tiannemen Square massacre in 1989. I have found out about him through doing my research for my essay on Kimsooja. The quotes below are from an essay by Ken Lum who interviewed Chen for the catalogue of an exhibition that took place in the Kunsthalle, Vien Austria.
Ken Lum writes “Since the emergence of identity politics in art, artists have been called upon to represent the ethnic communities of which they may be a part. The result has been the reification of essentialized ethnic identities, a model that fails to reflect the increasing degree of transnational mobility and hybrid experience that many artists working today enjoy.
…Chen’s notion of surrendering the self does not have to do with achieving transcendence, but rather with challenging us to revise our notions of identity and think of ourselves differently—to loosen the grip of individualism, with its inherent inflexibility, focus on self-affirmation and bias against collective memory.
Salman Rushdie has written extensively on this subject:
The effect of mass migrations has been the creation of radically new types of human being: people who root themselves in ideas rather than places, in memories as much as in material things; people who have been obliged to define themselves—because they are so defined by others—by their otherness; people in whose deepest selves strange fusions occur, unprecedented unions between what they were and where they find themselves.”
My Catherine was subjected to a rant from a taxi driver about Polish people coming here and taking our jobs. This stopped abrubtly when she said “They are economic migrants like my ancestors who came here to Scotland in 1840 from from rural Ireland, where people were living in desperate poverty, hardship and starvation.”