JUDITH TONG © 2018

A SOLO EXHIBITION LOCATED IN THE SMITH GALLERY OPEN FROM OCT. 29 - NOV. 8, 2018

I was deathly terrified of sharks after watching Jaws as a kid. The visceral memory of teeth and flesh and teeth ripping through flesh and dark blue open waters. But I’d never set foot in an ocean before and it didn’t seem like I’d be in an ocean in my near future, considering I live in the damn middle of a giant landmass. But that didn’t really matter to a kid who just seen Jaws.

I borrowed every book the public library had about sharks that my second grade vocabulary let me read. I watched YouTube videos of scuba divers swimming with sharks and marine biologists explaining all these irrelevant facts about the shark. I could tell you how many bones was in a shark and which species of shark prefers to dwell on the ocean floor and that a shark’s jaw becomes dislocated when it attacks to allow its mouth to open wider to dominate its victim.

 

I never really explained to anyone my irrational fear of sharks. My obsession to educate myself about The Shark became translated by my family and close friends as… “she really likes sharks.” After a while I was like yeah maybe I do like sharks they’re just large fish and I like the color blue. I also learned that sharks were misunderstood creatures and that the chances of you dying from a shark attack are less than that of death from a bee sting. It’s not like I still didn’t panic illogically at the thought of sharks, but I knew the swimming techniques that would be least likely to attract the attention of a shark and I would know how to get myself out of a scary situation if ever necessary. And I settled with that.

 

 

This exhibit is all really just recollections of vivid memories and intense spouts of emotions that I’m not quite sure how to deal with.

 

It’s about all of my fears, rational or not

and

disjointed identities and shedding your native identity but not by choice

and

claustrophobia

and

moments that are traumatic but somehow insignificant

and letting go of really. good. things

and it’s about living in poverty and not being able to admit it

and

unbelonging

 

and

it’s about embodying disappointment, and knowing full well,

but choosing to disappoint.

 

 

They are heavy thoughts and heavy feelings and relationships that make me feel heavy but I don’t know how and I don’t think they will or ever can be resolved,

I’ve made them into an enclosing experience for you, but more likely for myself.

 

 

And yeah pain and fear are romantic and profound and makes you feel poetic. But much of the time it’s mostly just about learning to live with things.

 

Many years ago I’ve made peace with the fact that I will never know the concept of home, a place where I feel and know I belong. Nothing ever grows familiar, and nothing is secure.

But it’s okay and I’m not sad now

because everything surprises me.