Breathing in New York, September 2022
Location: along 14th Street, Manhattan
Photo Credit: Winnie Su
"A Weekend in the World" by Maxwell Williams
"The 14th Street Path of Empathy" by Harley J. Spiller aka Inspector Collector
"To Tell Their Story" by Eliza Luce
"On 14th Street, A Weaving of Stories" by Matthew López-Jensen
“What’s Your Story?” at Bureau of General Service – Queer Division" by Martha Wilson
“Breathing in New York” series is about a connection I imagined between three seemingly unrelated but concurrent events that took place in New York in March 2020: the mask mandate resulting from the outbreak of COVID-19, the plastic bag ban, and my personal experience of race in New York City. Once I was walking on the streets and wearing a mask in Manhattan; Two white males passed me and called me “Chinese, Mask”, which was weird because I am not Chinese.
The feeling was less threatening and more strange and confusing. This was the first time I experienced a level of discrimination that was palpable. At the moment, I wasn’t even aware that it was racial discrimination because I had never experienced it before. My complicated feeling is not only because of racial discrimination, but also the abnormal relationship in politics, history, and culture between Taiwan and China. The word “Chinese” has multiple and ambiguous meanings, and it is a complex and sensitive topic for me as a Taiwanese.
Regarding the plastic bags from Key Food supermarket, they filled the cupboards of my dormitory in Brooklyn. At that time, Key Food was the closest supermarket to the school dormitory. Every time I went shopping, there were more plastic bags. Those worthless plastic bags were stuffed into my cupboard like garbage. In March 2020, the New York State government issued a plastic bag ban, and all supermarkets could no longer provide plastic bags to customers. Suddenly, I realized that I would not get any new plastic bags from Key Food supermarkets. At that moment, the plastic bags in my cupboard changed from trash to treasure! I couldn't help but wonder, would my identity also change from valueless to priceless at a certain moment?
Therefore, I thought that if I covered my head, people wouldn't know my identity. I did a seemingly ridiculous and a little sad action of covering my head with a plastic bag with a colorful Key Food label to hide my identity that, at the same time, could be seen as protection against COVID-19. Wearing a plastic bag might be not only for hiding my identity but also to avoid being defined by others. I wanted to and tried to get back the right to define myself. I am who I am.
在《Breathing in New York》系列中，我想像了三個看似無關但同時發生在2020年三月紐約的事件之間的聯繫：因COVID-19爆發而導致的戴口罩令、紐約州發起的塑料袋禁令以及我在紐約市遭遇關於種族的個人經歷。有一次我戴著口罩走在曼哈頓的街上，兩位白人男子從我身邊走過，朝我的方向喊「Chinese、mask」，我感到很奇怪，因為我不是中國人。
關於Key Food超市的塑膠袋，它們塞滿我在布魯克林的宿舍櫥櫃，當時距離學校宿舍最近的超市就是Key Food，每一次購物就多了一些塑膠袋，一文不值的它們像垃圾一樣被我塞在櫥櫃裡。直到2020年三月，紐約州政府頒布塑膠袋禁令，所有的超市不能再提供塑膠製的袋子給顧客，忽然間我意識到我不會再得到任何一個新的Key Food超市的塑膠袋，櫥櫃裡的它們在那一刻起從垃圾變為寶物。我不禁想，是否我的身分也會在某個瞬間從無價(valuelss)變成無價(priceless)呢？