Make Room is pleased to present DEATH DRIVE JOY RIDE, Catalina Ouyang’ s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. On view from June 9 through August 8, 2018, the opening reception will take place Saturday, June 9, from 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibition features a new body of sculpture, installation and video. Taking East Asian fox spirits as a departure point, the work positions mythic desires for immortality alongside a contemporary endeavor to find joy and community amid a seemingly inexorable drive toward planetary destruction. DEATH DRIVE JOY RIDE speaks (or wails) honestly from the positionality of its maker: a lonely Chinese-American girl clawing her way through our Wicked Problems.
“All foxes with spiritual potential practice self- cultivation in order to attain xian-hood. The superior ones...strive to capture the gift of the Li and the Kan or the Dragon and the Tiger. They absorb essences [from nature] and obtain effluvia from the sun, the moon, the stars, and the Big Dipper. In this way they can form a Golden Elixir within their bodies, shed their physical bodies, and transform themselves into feathered beings...The next ones cultivate their physical appearance and master the art of the Unsullied Woman [the art of sex]. They bewitch, delude, and possess people, assimilating their life essence to enrich themselves. Then they combine internal and external cultivation so that they can also attain the Elixir. However, if they do not assimilate enough [life essence], they will not be able to attain the Elixir. And if they assimilate too much, they will benefit themselves at the expense of human lives and be punished by either the underworld or heaven. I do not dare to join that kind. Therefore I have to rely on my stealing skills to plunder [the essence]. When people are soundly asleep, I assimilate vital energies from their breath...Gradually accumulating vital energies [from different people] and mixing them together, I can also hold my original spirit without losing it and attain spiritual powers over the years.”
— Gao Guanying
I. In 2006 she is thirteen on a leather swivelling chair in a half-finished basement, lurking on the Internet with dreams of being deviantArt-famous. There are people out there like her, who have wanted sharply to enter the screen of an RPG and make a life there, maybe fall in love there. On deviantArt there are people who cultivate second identities in the form of humanoid animals. They lovingly draw diagrams of these bushy, scaly, horned characters and illustrate their epic adventures in combating evil and pursuing romance. She secretly yearns for this quick route to being understood, but she isn’t ready to be like them. Community is for those who lack purpose and self-assurance. She still wants to prove her survival in the Real World, as a lone bitch, a thoroughly contemporary Mean Girl.
II. Once, young and alone at home, I reached into my parents’ display cabinet filled with dolls, corals, stones and crafts from all over the world. The cabinet, eight feet tall, was made of dark cherry wood with glass doors and a mirror covering the back. My hand slid past the souvenirs, further and further; everything in me rose. I was passing the reflective threshold. I was entering a separate dimension, transcending the tyranny of the mirror! Then, flatly, my hand hit glass. With a broken heart I fell back onto bleached carpet, the ground of suburban despair. Ceiling and world trussed me in a film of everything I did not yet understand, the places I had not yet seen, the ways I had not yet been filled, urbane sophistication, real 0.1-percenter wealth, cigarettes, speed and white wine, white devils, hungry ghosts, bad death ghosts, a war I did not yet comprehend, my shrinking body (700 calories per day!) that had only begun its long trial of violations. My preemptive desire to withdraw from it all.
III. The ancient Chinese said that there is a fox with nine tails and nine heads. It has the voice of a baby. It devours humans. When it dies, it turns its head toward the hill where it was born so that it does not forget its place of origin. Whoever eats it will be immune to bewitching poisons. So simple! What if our own flesh could be the Elixir. What if our hit points could be restored just like that. Without the Elixir, we have potions. A potion is three Benadryl a night, five lovers a week, ten days in bed and forty without sleep. Even though I am a person of bankrupt faith, I would like to race toward the Elixir. It should be shared for we are all culpable, though some of us more culpable than others. Someone please Paypal me gas money. I will drive to the end of the rainbow. The hellmouth’s drop. I will collect my modest joys along the way; for instance, it is good to hear from my mother. I am grateful because not everybody has a mother. Not everybody has a Paypal. Not everybody has known the kind of love that I have known. The depth. The fury. Oh. It was worth it. It was worth it. It was worth it.