Gallery Write-Up – “Who Stole My Milk?” – Shujun Jiang

 “Who Stole My Milk?” by  Shujun Jiang

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As you walk into this gallery, you are greeted by a double row for computer monitors playing repeating clips. Each clip has a girl doing a different action and speaking directly into the camera. For instance, one of them has a girl doing her make-up and then she offers the make-up brush toward the camera, saying, “You want this?” in a rather condescending tone. Another clip shows the camera following behind the girl as she tells the camera person to stop following her.

Further into the room is a wide open space with various videos projected everywhere from the floor to the walls to the upper portion of walls near the ceiling. It’s all rather confusing and disorienting. One of the videos has the girl arguing with someone about her milk being missing from the fridge. Overall, the colors of this whole gallery feel very natural and unedited. There’s no fancy lighting effects, which makes it feel like this exhibition is meant to feel more honest and real.

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The upper floor of this gallery involves mostly hand-drawn comics, with only a few videos here and there. The comics all revolve around a girl who loves photography and the troubles she faces in everyday life with other people.

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This one piece shows a video of a girl climbing and a trail of sand across the gallery floor. The description provided with this piece explains how it shows both the struggle of the climb and a sense of hope.

Overall, this gallery was a bit hard and confusing to understand at first until I realized that maybe that was the point. The artist is a foreign student from China who came to Alfred and had to learn English and the American culture. Perhaps she is using this exhibition to express all her struggles in having to settle into a new country and some of the mistreatment she recieved. The video of the girl acting condescending with the make-up brush could be based on something the artist actually experienced, or just how people talked down to her in general.

The whole disorienting and confusing feeling of the gallery is probably how the artist felt when she didn’t fully understand the English language and culture. Everything seemed confusing and awkward. The whole part with her constantly asking “Who stole my milk?” may be representing the confusion that results from a language barrior. Perhaps she was using the wrong English words or not pronouncing them correctly, and even though she hears herself saying it perfectly over and over again, the other person has trouble understanding her accent or what she means. I myself have a Japanese roommate, so I can definitely understand the confusion and frustration that can result from a language barrior.

Another aspect of this gallery exhibition seems to be focusing on her journey as a photography student and struggling with her self-confidence on following this career path. The comics show her as an awkward, shy girl who always has her camera. One comic even tells how she feels naked without her camera. The comics also show other students gossiping about her, saying things like how it’s typical for Asians to be clueless about things. These pieces also seem to illustrate her social anxiety and how people judge her and force her to wear a mask. She seems self-conscious of every action she takes. The climbing piece with the physical sand on the gallery floor seems to represent her struggle as a whole and the sense of hope for the future that keeps her moving onward and stops her from giving up.

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