I feel that I am living in an endless maze. Every seeming exit to freedom turns out to be another dead end.
I am screaming and fighting within a vacuum, and no matter how hard I try, people on the
outside cannot hear my crying, and the oxygen I need to breathe escapes me.
When I was growing up in China, every once in a while, I would hear my mother speak about how this “woman she knew” who was forced by, either the government, or her family, to have an abortion; or, another woman finally had a boy after multiple abortions. My family was fortunate enough to be able to have two children, but my mom suffered so much to keep my sister, emotionally and physically. There was a lot of pressure from my father to have an abortion. He purposely went on a trip and left my mom home alone, knowing the baby was due anytime soon. Even this pregnancy was hard-earned after my mom had several miscarriages, all he cared about was if it was a boy. I realized that, in both China and, increasingly, America with its stricter abortion laws, societies are taking away the control a woman has over her own body.
Suffocation (installation) is an enclosed space using a plastic membrane and a video projection. Within the plastic enclosure, the video projection displays a female who puts a plastic bag over her head and breathes in and out deeply and repeatedly until the oxygen fully escapes her. Eventually she rips off the bag so she can breathe once more. By guiding viewers into this space, I am recreating the scenario of the woman in the projection--the viewers themselves, once they enter the work, are contained, breathing inside a plastic “bag” too. The sequences of the scenario can only be heard until the viewers enter this plastic space where the projection is revealed. Only one person to enter at a time. Thus making this a solitary experience.
The viewers are forced to confront and, hopefully, empathize with her desperation to breathe and survive when they watch and hear her struggle; from the beginning, with her normal breathing, to the moment of ripping, as she gets to the brink of suffocation. This showcases how women feel when they are left with no choice. On the other hand, it is “asking” the viewer: after witnessing such desperate struggle, “how could you still be okay and allow such injustice to be placed upon women?” The act of ripping off the bag is a metaphor for my resistance. At this moment, a choiceless reality is imposed on women in both China and America. The fullness of this injustice is both emotional and physical.
Suffocation, Fan Su, 2019
Installation (mixed media), plastics, looping video