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Huidi Xiang: when held properly

Huidi Xiang when held properly

Tutu Gallery, Brooklyn, New York March 31, 2023 - June 1, 2023

Huidi Xiang, when held properly, installation view, Tutu Gallery

While visiting Huidi’s studio for the first time, I brought her two oranges—in Chinese, the word for "orange" (chéng) has the same pronunciation as the word for "accomplishment," symbolizing a wish for something to be done with graceful completion. The color of the fruit flashed back when I encountered Huidi’s solo show, when held properly, at Tutu Gallery, a project space founded by a black cat named Tutu and her human assistant April Z, in Bedstuy, Brooklyn.

The warm and playful interior paint, “Extreme Yellow,” turns Tutu into a domestic cartoon setting. Streaks of this shade on the archway, the mantle and the kitchen wall thread between Huidi’s sculptures and the space itself. Stepping into the exhibition feels like entering the home of a fictional character or a game scene.

Huidi Xiang, when held properly, installation view, Tutu Gallery

Huidi’s work often absorbs elements from video games and cartoon animations, bouncing between the physical world and virtual scenarios. The body of work in when held properly, was originally inspired by Shoe Goomba—a tool, a metaphor, a shape-shifting weapon-armor that acts a vital role in Huidi’s practice.

Shoe Goomba appears in later iterations of the iconic video game Super Mario Bro. Goomba, the mushroom-like species, is Mario’s major enemy. But if Mario defeats this monster with a stealth attack, he will be granted the procession of A Goomba’s Shoe (The Shoe), which allows him to move through hazards. The Shoe implies a survival strategy: using the opponent’s weapon to weaponize oneself.

In her sculptures, Huidi translates The Shoe into multiple forms with various components growing from it. In hare come the glitches, one of Bugs Bunny’s ear peeks out from the green shoe; in the flower needs no water, the three concrete shoes hold a plastic basin, on which a plastic elephant toy endlessly circles a mini train track. And in power-up take-out, the original clock key of Shoe Goomba is shaped into a shoelace knot, and an enlarged knife for take-out is adorned with a flower. Dangerous, witty, and strangely adorable. Tools and toys coexist within the same system, and imagined worlds merge into real-life absurdity. Huidi humorously seizes traces of labor in objects of play and asks whether we can dismantle the usefulness of tools and transform them into creativity.

Huidi Xiang, when held properly, installation view, Tutu Gallery

Another word for laborer might be caretaker, a term mentioned in Huidi’s video installation timber the dream house. In this work, “caretaker” refers to one of the characters in the game Animal Crossing, the Villager, who utilizes domestic tools to take care of their world. However, the same caretaking routines are later transformed into attack moves in Super Smash Bros. By highlighting the paradox of how these tools are used in popular media, Huidi invites us to re-examine how we consume mainstream entertainment.

Tutu gallery itself is both a workplace (for exhibition-making) and a playroom, situating art in a field of co-working, sharing, and having fun. It seems that the communities surrounding Tutu gallery also practice interdependency. During the exhibition when held properly, the artists and the curator cook for each other, organize a Switch game party, and make a (literal) fire in Tutu’s backyard with their visitors. The possibility of jumping out from white cubes and producing relational exhibitions emerges from these activities and their playful nature. Perhaps, Huidi, Tutu, and their friends are trying to build playgrounds on capitalist remains and melt labor into joy and love.

Yindi Chen

All images courtesy of Huidi Xiang and Tutu Gallery

when held properly, runs until June 1, 2023 at Tutu Gallery in Brooklyn NY, USA


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