Eye Contact Flashcards are 3x5” index cards with a different pair of eyes printed on each card. Eyes have been collected from friends on social media & from image archives on the internet.
I installed a glass ceiling in my studio space
Sleep Anywhere Pants™
The Sleep Anywhere Pants™ are a set of shredded-memory-foam-leg-wedge-pillows that allow a human to sleep comfortably in a squatting fetal position -to escape the discomfort of sleeping on one’s back, and the modern trappings of needing an expensive mattress.
the pants that will allow you to fall asleep anywhere!
a way to escape the mattress!
a look that will take you from day-to-night, & all night long!
a way to sleep on the go!
a gorgeous piece of wearable furniture!
Photography by Michael Chen
Photographs also document the demolition of Pier 70
Sleep Anywhere Pants
pant to sleep
Hat Chair is a hat that doubles as a chair.
a look that will take you from day-to-night!
a double disruption!
a glamorous piece of wearable furniture!
Photographs taken by Michael Chen
No Phone Day
Embodied practice, along with and bound up with other cultural practices, offers a way of knowing
-Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas
No Phone Day was an international performance of collective forgetting that happened on May 26, 2018. Over 70 people participated in my social networks and left their phones at home for 12 hours. There were also hundreds of postcards and posters that were placed in businesses around the San Francisco Bay Area. There is no way of knowing how many people participated, or how many people left their phones at home, accidentally. Several people also participated on different days, staggering the time-period of the event. Elwyn Palmerton, an Oakland based artist, referred to this piece as the Schrödinger's cat of performance documentation. It eludes any proof that it happened.
There was a sense during No Phone Day of being alone together; being a part of a collective and a happening can occur remotely, thwarting site-specificity.
There was also a sense of what Diana Taylor refers to as the repertoire; my body can move throughout the world differently and transfer knowledge, without needing to record or capture anything. If other people joined me in moving throughout the world differently this knowledge could be transferred remotely, without relying on an archive.
This piece was inspired by my struggles with impulse control, that are exasperated by my cellphone use, daily. I was on a flight recently sitting next to a woman who ate half of a cookie and did not finish the second half for 5.5 hours. This kept me up at night. There is no conceivable reality where I would not have finished the second half of that cookie. I think of my cell phone use and pop-up notifications as the second half of that cookie.
This piece was also inspired by a Julia Bryan-Wilson lecture called “Minds Over Matter,” about telepathy and telekinesis in performance art in the 1970s. I imagined during the performance piece that collective participation was formed through telepathy.
I discovered during the performance, that wandering around San Francisco with a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, is one of the best ways to meet people. The copy of Hell’s Angels was purchased at Bound Together Anarchist Collective Bookstore, in Haight Ashbury, after my poster was enthusiastically put in the store window.
The posters and postcards were an important part of this project for me because I really wanted to communicate with people outside of my social network. The posters and flyers completely changed the way I see San Francisco: the difference between the vibes of businesses with community billboards versus the vibes of ones that do not have them, and the many types of communication that are transferred within these spaces. & THANK YOU if you are reading this and you were one of the shopkeepers who was really excited about this project or one of the store owners who have a community billboard -you really make a difference in our cultural landscape.
The poster was designed by the graphic designer Mary Banas
Chairbelt is a belt that unfolds into a chair. My patent had been pending on this invention for several months, but I decided to not complete the patent process. After having a long conversation with Luke Idziak, I realized that I never wanted to block access to anyone who would like to make a Chairbelt, for any reason. That would be devastating. I have published the provisional patent online, to make the idea open-source: so anyone who wants to make a Chairbelt, can make a Chairbelt.
from belt to chair
The threshold of a statement is the threshold of the existence of signs -Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge
When I needed to blow off steam at the art studio last year, I wandered around the Dogpatch with my camera. I found it hysterically amusing to take existing street and business signs, and photograph only parts of words or sentences. This created a completely different meaning, for example, a sign that said "affordable self storage" changed into one that said "affordable self." Frequently, I transformed very heavy-handed sinister signs into signs that were playful and amusing. For some of these signs, I recombined the fragments later on the computer to create a new hybrid sign; the sign that said “notice" suddenly became "not ice." These signs I created were printed out in a large scale and placed next to the originals, at times, varying the context and cues of the industrial landscape.
Since this project began, many of the original signs have disappeared due to the demolition of Pier 70. What began as a distraction, has become an archive. The signs now hold a record of what had been there and how that space had been navigated.
Exhibited at Lights OUT Pier 70
"AFFORDABLE SELF STORAGE"
NO RAGE WEDNESDAY
"NO STORAGE ALLOWED"
THE NOON PIE
"THE FRED NOONAN BUILDING - PIER 70"
I noticed one day that Facebook started doing rip-off Ed Rusha color filters with Helvetica text for anyone to format their posts with. I found it both obnoxious and incredibly irritating: another misappropriation of an artists work being commercialized and resold. I woke up angry and cynical one morning and wrote some poetry in this format. I repeated clichés of my Facebook feed with a tone of a perjorative self-improvement guide. It was a very cathartic experience.
All You Need to be Happy
Photographers and DJs
I have noticed this trend all over San Francisco where graffiti is painted over in different wall colors, and, as a result, a pretty good painting is created. Unintentionally, these painted walls resemble paintings of famous abstract expressionists. I could not resist taking a photograph, and then could not resist printing the photograph on canvas. Afterward, I coated the canvases with resin, leaving a very textured clear layer on top of the paintings. Resin also has a very specific art-market/art-fair veneer, and the paintings became suddenly transformed into consumer items. Sometimes when I'm left alone with the paintings I can't decide if the actual painting is the printer ink or the resin, or the painting that is depicted. After I capture the images, the original wall space is either repainted or sprayed again with graffiti -when this happens, representation takes over the real.
The invisibility mask is a two-way mirror mask. The person wearing the mask can see out of it, but anyone outside of the mask cannot see in. Instead, they see their own reflection.
Since publishing this project, I have discovered other Bay Area artists who have also implicated mirrors with their bodies: Paul Taylor with his #selfiesuit, and Randy Sarafan who installed a #selfie mirror at Pier 9, San Francisco.
There is something about both projects that I find very constitutive to what it means to have a self in the Bay Area these days. I keep having this sinking feeling when I’m in public and staring at my cell phone, that I am no longer just the body in the BART station, but I have become multiplied in perpetuity on the internet. My external appearance, my clothes, my hair, no longer fully reflect my reality or my being. What these artists are doing by affixing these mirrors to their bodies, is taking the self that is multiplied, and translating that multiplication to their appearance. There is always a strange distance between how we appear to the world around us, and how we feel deep inside of ourselves. Closing that gap allows us to communicate more effectively with those around us. Paul Taylor told me that when he wears the suit, he becomes more gregarious and able to communicate with strangers. The mirrors, in this sense, become a kind of drag, not in the sense of performing one’s gender, but in a sense of allowing someone to perform their self. We become, with the mirrors, a constantly shifting reflection of what is around us.
With the use of the 2-way mirror, I have taken this project down another road. The 2-way mirror not only multiplies my surroundings, but also obfuscates my being —I am in public but I choose to no longer be myself, and when you attempt to judge me by my appearance, you only succeed at seeing yourself. There is a longing for latency in comprehension. I yearn to delay the trappings of my identification, while I find myself embedded in the reflection of my surroundings. -May 6, 2018
Photographs by Michael Chen
An apple a day
For a few months in 2014, I snapchatted a video of myself eating an apple every day. There is no documentation of this event.
The greatest gifts, they say, are the ones that we want for ourselves. When I graduated from college I became obsessed with gift giving. I had this idea that giving art would take the pressure off my art practice, and in a way it did. I was able to make something outside of the institution, but it got weird. I took it too far. I went through a stage where I was telling people what gifts I wanted. I started giving too much all the time. Rather than negotiate house chores, I would do all of them. It began to make people uncomfortable, that was palpable, and I started to feel that I was valued less as a person. People like to work for their social interactions, I learned, they don’t want approval right away.
In the midst of this gift giving era, I had a friend who worked for a high-profile art gallery. She was one of the lucky ones, having the job that the rest of us dreamed about. She was miserable. She wanted a promotion. I had an idea, at the time, that if I gave her flowers she would be perceived as being more valuable and would get a promotion. She had also been talking a lot about the lack of women’s representation in galleries, so I thought that it would be very funny to sneak a piece in. So I ordered flowers, anonymously, from one of those internet companies advertising in the margins of my browser. I wrote the most flattering thing I could think of, something along the lines of, “you are my greatest distraction and my biggest fear.” If anyone ever said that to me, especially anonymously, it would be a dream come true. The greatest gifts, they say, are the ones that we want for ourselves.
What happened after the flowers was a cascade of events that are not my story to tell. What I will tell you is that another woman at the gallery had her husband send her the same flowers. I will also tell you that my friend never guessed that I would be the one who would send her the flowers. When I told her she was surprised but grateful that it happened.
We are no longer friends, sadly, for other reasons. I almost never told this story. I thought that by redacting her name, I could finally tell what really happened: it wouldn’t be about her. After a friendship ends, you almost wonder if anything during that friendship ever really happened, if it was real. I am not surprised that it's over -what is that parable about the man who had everything, gave it all away, had nothing, and then ceased to exist? Was that a true story? What if the moon becomes so heavy, it falls to Earth?
I decided to bite my cheek. What happened is more important than any dissolution of any relationship. It is important to me because of the assumption I had made at the onset of this piece:
I assumed that when you give a woman flowers it increases her value. I assumed that when you give a woman a diamond it increases her value. I assumed that when you buy a woman dinner, tell her that she’s beautiful, pay $50,000 for a wedding, it increases her value. We have commodified women by giving them objects to reflect how much they are worth to us. It is so deeply ingrained that I did not even think about it. It took me years to realize how weird it was that I thought that flowers could beget a job promotion.
I never questioned my assumption, when ordering the flowers, that when you give a woman flowers it increases her value.
Inspired by Paul Ekman, Faces was a subversion to normative facial expressions, exploring the limen of the face and how it communicates. This performance happened in front of an audience of 20-30 people moving throughout the space.
A performance from July 22, 2011
Exhibition: Million Dollar Pool Home
Published in LA Telephone Book 2011
Will you take a picture of us?
My friend Marie and I wandered around Los Angeles, one day, with a mirror and asked strangers to take photos of us.
Photos are in chronological order
A phenomonology of numbers; working on comprehending accretion.
The following is a combination of colored-pencil on paper drawings & computer drawings.