Paradise (Flooding)


Paradise (Flooding) is a performance about the visible and invisible labor of care and the intimate politics of bodies in spaces hidden from public view. Chinese women are stereotyped as disposable, cheap, and silent labor that services the bodies of dominant culture: restaurants, cleaners, nail salons. The afternoon before sharing this performance, a white 21-year-old American man was heard saying, “I’m going to kill all Asians,” inside Gold Massage Spa, Atlanta. He had already purchased a gun and killed 8 people in 3 spas that day.

I bought a pair of $2 house slippers a few years. One of the plastic straps snapped and I taped the two pieces together. I washed them in a porcelain bowl I usually save for nice meals. I wanted to sit with the labor that immigrants perform to maintain the objects that anchor their ways of living. That is, the objects that make up their personal forms of paradise within an unwelcoming and perpetually foreign land.

“…[T]he act of imagination is bound up with memory,” wrote Toni Morrison in an essay called The Site of Memory. “You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. ‘Floods’ is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”

I know that memories are travelers and, like many travelers, they resist containment. Over 24 minutes, the water in the bowl gets dirtier and spills out—an ephemeral memory of cleaning a worn object.

Performance still.