Artist statement: C. Grace Chang

Imagining Somewheres is an artistic research project done at Lund University’s division of Art History and Visual Culture. This VR piece explores refusal, boundaries, and the simultaneous hypervisibility and invisibility of people of color in white-dominated societies. I combined Virtual Reality, performance, and installation to form a power dynamic between the viewer and the figure in the piece––while the viewer remains fixed, the figure moves at will, revealing and concealing herself as she pleases. The viewer sees only what she grants them access to.

The vibrant red draws the viewer’s gaze even as the figure blocks herself from full view, all as she gazes back throughout. The use of red also ties into a culturally significant symbol for many Asian diasporas that collapses physical distance and time with a multiplicity of other possible meanings.

The audio is American poet Ocean Vuong reading his poem “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” from his 2016 collection titled Night Sky With Exit Wounds. The poem is a letter to himself, to his body––it explores the violence and trauma of war, family memories, nationality, embodiment, and sexuality.

To create Imagining Somewheres, I used critical race studies and decolonial theory to examine obstruction as a productive force for recentering people of color in their own imagined “somewheres.” These somewheres are not utopias but havens, grounded in the hope that drives resistance, mediated by our current inability to imagine what liberation would even look like.

I wanted to use refusal as a starting point, as a positive force. As a form of refusal, obstruction offers mediation and protection. In the context of critical race theory, obstruction creates protection from the violence of the white gaze. Imagining Somewheres explores where we go after refusal, though not in any literal sense. The piece’s narrative is defined by emotion, boundaries, and visual access rather than time or place.

The audio recording was kindly permitted by Ocean Vuong.