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Documentation of Kant Doesn't Know Shit About Beauty, 2019

This triptych intends to bring awareness to the distinctively Western concept of ‘Asia’ or ‘Asian’. The voices (the texts) in the videos, accompanied by still images taken in Chinatown, come from the perspective of the racial and national entities of “Asia”, “Asian”, which can be read differently depending on the time that is projected. In this series of works, each image has a different relationship to the text.

Kant Doesn't Know Shit About Beauty

Single-channel video installation

1:30 min loop


In "We Are Just Wong Kar-Wai References", the text is aware of the gaze. It is commenting on the image’s point of view. The cans of sardines, a reference to Wong Kar-Wai’s "Chungking Express" (1994), is recognized as a reference—nothing more. Since the reference is just a reference, the image loses it’s ‘meaning’: the objects in the image are not seen as foods, but merely references to something else. This serves as a critique of the postmodern state, self-referentiality, and strategic Orientalism—where those who can’t avoid being racialized as Asians, embrace the stereotyping and use positivist essentialism in their political interest. This explanation applies to the second image, "LET’S BLUR THE LINES BY SAYING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL" where the image of a garbage bin taken in Chinatown is juxtaposed against the text.

In "Kant Doesn't Know Anything About Beauty", the text is resisting the gaze. While the text on the previous two pieces highlight and critique the limits of self-awareness and strategic Orientalism, in this work, the text is pushing against the Western gaze. Commenting on Immanuel Kant’s aesthetics, I am applying Walter Mignolo’s theory of Decolonial Aesthetics, which refers in general to any thinking and doing, that is geared toward undoing a particular kind of aesthesis, of senses, that is the sensibility of the colonized subject. Mignolo considers aesthetic as being an aspect of the colonial matrix of power, of the imperial structure of control that began to be put in place in the sixteenth century with the emergence of the Atlantic commercial circuit and the colonization of the New World, which was transformed and expanded through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and up to this day. Mignolo argues that Western knowledge and aesthetics has been spread globally and, therefore, it is in all of us—that aesthesis is not restricted to the art world, but is a basic human attribute. In this work, I’m seeking to delink the legacy of modern aesthetics and its Greek and Roman legacies, by reviewing the legacies. It is necessary to start from concepts introduced by Western philosophy, science, religion, arts, and knowledge in general in order to delink them.

© 2020 by Maari Sugawara

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