a film by Mai Ling
This film is part of the recent exhibition at the Vienna Secession titled, NOT YOUR ORNAMENT, where Mai Ling investigates the racialized and gendered logic of “Ornamentalism” — a term conflating “Orientalism” and “ornamental” that the American feminist scholar Anne Anlin Cheng discusses in her book, which analyses how the European and American imagination has constructed Asian femininity as a hybrid human being and decorative object. Mai Ling challenges such an objectified condition through ornamental and invasive plants. Drawing on the Secession’s close relation to the Art Nouveau movement — often characterized by ornamental designs inspired by natural forms, such as flowers and plants — Mai Ling aims to reclaim their agency confronted by the decorative aesthetics that perpetuates the sexualization and dehumanization of Asian bodies within white colonial society.
NOT YOUR ORNAMENT
Founded in Vienna in 2019, Mai Ling is an artists’ collective and association dedicated to facilitating dialogues about experiences of racism, sexism, homophobia, and any kind of prejudgment, particularly against Asian FLINT* (women*, lesbian, inter*, non-binary, and trans*). Rooted in solidarity against patriarchal and racial discrimination, the group offers a protected space and growing network to give voice to the many individuals affected by such discrimination and foster new forms of collaboration. Encouraging and contextualizing contemporary Asian art and culture, Mai Ling employs a variety of artistic and discursive formats such as performances, texts, videos, sound, installations, talk series, interventions, and protests. Mai Ling’s name refers to an eponymous television sketch from 1979 by the German comedian Gerhard Polt that showcases sexist and racial stereotypes and prejudices against Asian women* in German-speaking society. Drawing from this work and addressing present-day issues, Mai Ling challenges the Western patriarchal gaze and confronts racist fantasies that keep reproducing stereotypes about “Asia” and are still deeply embedded and internalized by society.