YoU Dispatch Questionnaire: Mo Kong

By Mo Kong

September 1, 2022

At the conclusion of YoU, the Artists-In-Residence were asked seven questions about their experience and the overall mission of this collaborative program. Five artists shared their responses, which can be viewed in their entirety below. A large-format broadsheet was also produced to highlight a selection of answers and images that delve into the strengths and challenges of interconnectedness, and the continued work to be done within the institution.

Caption: Workshop with Mo Kong, YoU Summer Community Camp, July 2021. Photo: Neil Constantine.
Image Description: Three children are sitting at a table in the Queens Museum’s Unisphere Gallery. They are all masked, two are wearing yellow shirts and one is wearing a dark blue shirt. The children are focusing on making sculptures using produce that is presented on the table: mangos, asparagus, potatoes, etc. Artist Mo Kong is leaning over the table to show the summer camp students how to work with these items. Their hair is styled in two, long black braids. They are wearing brown glasses, an KN95 mask, and a green military coat with a small German flag on the left sleeve. Standing next to them is a summer camp volunteer educator wearing a black mask and a yellow shirt.

Question 1: Was there a relationship you built during YoU that impacted your work in a meaningful way?

The experience of working with the La Jornada and Queens Museum Cultural Food Pantry and the New New Yorkers program integrates my practice with the community and pushes me to understand the relationship between artists, immigrants, and institutions from a more realistic perspective. My project analyzes the dilemma of survival within immigrant  communities in the contemporary political and economic environment from the perspective of food preservation. The cooperation with the Cultural Food Pantry, however, has made me aware of the cultural gap between immigrants. I enjoyed this collaboration very much, and the programs developed around the work also gave the work itself a deeper social meaning.

Question 2: Which theme was most relevant to your work throughout YoU?

The Future. Personal Ark is a reasonable inference about the living conditions of Asian immigrants in the future, referring to the current situation of the environment and economy, and also correcting the injustice of history.

In an orange hue room, angular structures form a downwards trend graph. A hanging lamp made of stacked glass vases wrapped in seaweed hangs from the top of the image.
Caption: Installation view documenting stages of development from October to December 2021, Mo Kong: Personal Ark, Queens Museum. Photo credit: Hai Zhang.
Image Description: In an orange hue room, angular structures form a downwards trend graph. A hanging lamp made of stacked glass vases wrapped in seaweed hangs from the top of the image.

Question 3: How has your work embraced uncertainty?

The uncertainty in my work is reflected in the imprecision of future predictions. The use of pseudoscientific instruments such as distillation systems and beakers and organic matter like freeze-dried fruit, live snails, and dried leaves in the work adds uncertainty and uncontrollability to the sturdy structures containing them. Corresponding to the unpredictable and ever-changing economic and political trends in real life, the work provides a space for reflection.

Question 4: What are two things you learned from YoU?

1. The ability to work with kids. 2.The process of working with fabricators and professionals.

Question 5: What does a “community museum” mean to you?

To provide children from immigrant families with the opportunity to learn about contemporary art and to allow them to see the possibility of becoming an artist

Question 6: Did YoU change the way you exist within museums?

My exhibition, Personal Ark, challenged the Museum’s traditionally odorless white-walled space by inviting less desirable scents – from a Western perspective – to take over the space, forcing visitors to react to the work before they saw it. Exhibiting living organisms that needed daily care also posed a challenge to the maintenance of the Museum. YoU created a platform for me to really bring my work to new communities, especially groups that I initially thought were not my audience. The resulting conversation between the work itself and the communities interacting with it were unexpected. This definitely pushed me to think more about how to bring contemporary art to the local community – especially immigrant groups – and what this means to them and their kids.

Question 7: What do you think is the most important question or issue about the role of museums that arose during YoU?

Can non-traditional exhibition methods be accepted by the art world?