Susan Chen

I’m not racist, but… (Australian Mahjong)

About the Work

Over the last year as the Coronavirus became more prevalent in Australia, so too did the underlying racism that unfortunately still exists in some individuals. During the early days of the ongoing pandemic, media outlets reported on incidents involving the abuse of Asians by non- Asians, both verbally and physically. This left me feeling anxious, overwhelmed and a little frightened to leave the house.

Although I was born and raised in Sydney and have an unmistakable Australian accent, I still look “Asian” and therefore will always be a target for racism. At times I feel as though my life, along with many other Australian Born Chinese (ABC’s) is a game in which we have very little control over. We must play the part of the model migrant and not stray from the rules for fear of racial backlash.

My artwork, “I’m not racist, but…” explores the themes of casual racism in Australia and the “game”, using the quintessential Chinese game of Mahjong as the premise for my artwork. The three traditional suits, honour, wind, flowers and joker tiles are subverted through the use of imagery that capture the state of intolerance as a result of COVID. Represented on these tiles are symbols and words that reflect the slurs, stereotypes, casual racist remarks and patronising platitudes that COVID has reinvigorated.

Medium: Porcelain, underglaze
Music: Moonshines by LATG Music, Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas

About the Creative

Susan Chen is a Sydney-based Ceramic artist, working out of her studio in Sydney’s Inner West. Chen’s work explores the intersection of art, design and craft, currently focusing on the use of digital technology in the ceramic art making process. Chen is interested in the changing narrative and perception of traditional ceramic making techniques, and how they can be applied in a contemporary context.Chen often finds her inspiration in the mundane of the everyday. She is an acute social observer and creates sculptural interpretations and unique narratives from social debris that is left behind, both in the physical and digital realm. Her work highlights the significance of the object in the ephemeral nature of the digital world.