Law and Order: USA (made in China)

(2012-2013) is a series of three latch-hook rugs based on Law and Order:  Special Victims Unit.  The seed for this work began in 1999 while I was pursuing my M.F.A. in Chicago.  1999 was also the year that this off-shoot of Law and Order began.  During my time in Chicago I began to have an unnatural relationship with my television.  I believed that the television and I were communicating psychically….more to the point that there was some sort of psychic-sexual relationship between the two of “us”.  I have wanted to explore this relationship through my work for some time, but it was not until recently that the imagery and methodology revealed themselves to me.

Originally, each image on the panels was supposed to correspond with the size of my television.  When asked to produce this work for a show in Berlin themed “Made in China” new things clicked and the process and sizing changed.  I outsourced my project to a Chinese manufacturer that could not produce the proper image on the scale I was initially planning for, so we went bigger.  Hey, this is America…..bigger is ALWAYS better.

My interest here is not only to look at my  relationship with my television, but also to create work that questions the American obsession with the crime-drama format.  I have a deep, if not twisted, sentimentality for my experience with my television in Chicago, fueled in particular by Law and Order:  SVU  (a show that focuses on sex crimes), and therefore decided to use a familiar technique that mirrors this:  the latch-hook rug.  The latch-hook rug became popular in America, especially in the 1970’s, through readily available latch-hook kits.  The process of hooking a rug into an image, one piece of yarn at a time is quite laborious.  I have previously created latch-hook pieces with my own hands, an exercise in patience and obsession, often working for 16 hours a day for months on end.   These conditions are analogous to what we as Americans perceive a “sweat-shop” in China to provide for its workers.  Yet as Americans we consume massive quantities of products made in China.  This consumption is similar to our appetite for the crime-drama format in all its televised variations.  Fan paraphernalia and promotional materials for media are most often outsourced to China and other countries, then sold as Americana.

China is known for mass-production of goods for the West, but what happens when an artist creates a “unique” one-off piece of “Art” using the tools of mass production available to businesses and corporations?  Does the work somehow lose value because the artist’s hand is not involved in the finished piece?   Or does the project gain relevance because it is being created using the current methodology of out-sourced mass-production?  One thing is certain for me:  emails and technical drawings, shipping and customs, trading agents and new relationships with people a world away all became a part of the story of this work and its process.

This work is dedicated lovingly to Angel Ko and Alice Yam of Beautimax in Hong Kong…..without their gracious help I would be lost.