Is Chinese identity personal, national, cultural, political? Does it migrate, become malleable or transmuted? What is authentic, sacred, kitsch? Using documentary and conceptual photographic strategies, acclaimed photographer Wing Young Huie explores the meaning of Chinese-ness in his home state of Minnesota, throughout the United States, and in China.
Huie, the youngest of six children and the only one born in the United States, grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, where images of pop culture fed, formed, and confused him. At times his own parents seemed foreign and exotic. His visit to China in 2010 compounded the confusion: his American-ness made him as visible there as his Chinese-ness did in Minnesota.
To make sense of his experiences, Huie photographed and interviewed people of Chinese descent and those influenced by Chinese-ness. Their multifaceted perspectives project humor and irony, as well as cultural guilt and uncertainty. In a series of diptychs, Huie wears the clothes of Chinese men whose lives he could have lived, blurring the boundary between photographer and subject.
How does Chinese-ness collide with American-ness? And who gets to define those hyphenated abstract nouns? Part meta-memoir and part actual memoir, Chinese-ness reframes today’s conversations about race and identity.