New York-based artist and designer Mimi O Chun’s soft sculptures recontextualize existing vernacular used in popular culture to reveal truth about the values we collectively adopt, perpetuate, and create. The artist, a self-proclaimed media junkie, informs her artwork through a critical and visual reinterpretation of the news, social media and internet memes, as well as late capitalist and art historical theory. “Life today feels like a fever dream of real-time news and Instagrammable moments,” Chun explains, “on the one hand, events that threaten to topple the pillars of democracy, and, on the other, art directed lifestyle imagery intended to scratch our most capitalist urges.” The artist’s sculptures offer viewers familiar moments that are simultaneously delightful and serious in order to spark moments of collective self-examination.
Mimi O Chun: It’s all cake presents new works made by the artist during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding yet another layer to the artist’s practice of social and political commentary in the form of sculpture. The repercussions of the ongoing pandemic are felt worldwide, effecting mental health, education, economy, and so on. Despite the closure of businesses and spike in unemployment, online buying has advanced at 10 times the rate as seen prior to the pandemic. The title, It’s all cake, speaks to the absurdity of online consumption, where fun gimmicks distract from deeper issues. Specifically, it refers to illusion cakes that look like everyday objects such as toilet paper. The title also suggests moments in history when political leaders distanced their ideologies from the reality of their constituents. For example, Marie Antoinette’s famous phrase “let them eat cake” during times of famine and political unrest in 18th century France. Today, one might proclaim “let them watch illusion cake memes” diverting attention from the crucial topics of our time.
This exhibition is part of the series PROJECT SPACE—an initiative that supports emerging and established artists in expanding their practice. Organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) and curated by Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art.