Art Gallery of Grande Prairie

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hole/whole: Kim Huynh


Curated by Todd Schaber of The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie
Travelling Exhibition (TREX) program

Pearls/oysters are derived from oceans, which are an integral part of the eco environment. Our relationship to the world’s oceans was ambivalent during the nationalistic economic development of the last century and remains ambivalent during globalization today. Human beings are both part of the natural world and manipulators of it. This constant push and pull tension is an increasingly involved and complicated relationship. On one hand these pearls are cultural commodities valued globally. On the other hand they represent an ecosystem, increasingly exhausted by the amount of toxicity in the human footprint.

As viewers encounter these images they see the pearls on a body of a woman/man, which romanticizes the nature of the pearl and its qualities as a fetish. The lusty commodity (the pearl) operates both as subject and object in relation to the body: connect/disconnect, love/hate, receive/ reject. James Ridgeway observes that rights to use of continental oceans are being divided up and distributed out as fish farms, fishing and mineral rights. In the United States, the ocean is slowly being privatized, justified by the economic need for oil drilling and the political interest of “national security.”

In the progression of strategic uses in Capitalism, in place of round pearls, mechanical holes extract substance from the body/pearl image to the point of near erasure of presence. The interchanged holes and the pearls erase and exhaust the naive relationship. What we have left is a ghost identity of an unrecognizable trace. This tension is at the core of continued struggles that consumers have in everyday life. The shift of the metaphor of the pearl and the body may become increasingly alarming as viewers recognize symbols of pieces from the ancient warfare game, Xiangqi or Chinese chess, reserved in the final images.

The contact point of pearls and skin symbolizes a foreshadowing image of nature against nurture. The work provides moments for individual and collective reflection. It will also hold the potential for action; however we relate to globalization – as long-term social or cultural success or failure, or as source of global/ecological imbalance – reflection and action will begin with a constructive dialogue.