April 19th - July 1st, 2023
at The Power Station Annex
Thinking about the symbolic language attached to invasive species has led Amy Yao to her current work with Corbicula Fluminea also known as “Asian Clams.” She has been in conversation with Dr. Wendell Haag of the USDA, Dr. Robert F. McMahon, and Dr. Astrid Schwalb of the University of Texas who have also helped her collect the specimens. Like the politicization of Covid-19 by Donald Trump as the “China Virus”, the description of many “invasive species” also embodies xenophobic racializing language. Climate change and capitalism have affected animal and plant migration and each species carries with it a history, which often reflects evolving human biases at different points in time. Using the collected specimens, Yao has been making sculptures in flux, replicating stories of a species on the move.
Corbicula Fluminea (Asian Clam) was first noted to have migrated to the Americas around 1920. It is a freshwater clam that is prized in various regions of Asia. Alternatively named the Golden Clam, Good Luck Clam, etc. it is eaten in regional cuisines. Oftentimes named invasive in North America, not much is known about the Asian Clam or its possible threat of disrupting native ecosystems. “It has been documented, however, that indigenous fish and crayfish have added the clam to their diets.” One of its nasty attributes is its proliferating ability to biofoul or clog the intake valves of electrical and nuclear power stations. “As water is drawn from rivers, streams, and reservoirs for cooling purposes so are Corbicula larvae… Economic problems can result from the decreased efficiency of energy generation.”
The common popular perception of migrating species is that they are invasive and therefore bad. The history of this perception is linked to the Eugenicist, Carl Linnaeus, who upheld the belief that “species belonged ipso facto wherever he found them,” while in fact the origin of a species’ habitat cannot always be explained by finding the species in a certain place and time. The perception that things belong to where they are found by humans is a human-centric concept that assumes the partiality of human
Ignorant of all the controversy, the hidden genius of Corbicula Fluminea is that it is an environmentalist pirate, a hijacker, and a terrorist to energy systems that propel technology, efficiency, and development. Celebrated here in a mixed bag of biofouling fantasy: Which is the clam who clogs? Who is the wedge of wise pearls?
Amy Yao (b. Los Angeles, California) is a contemporary visual artist and educator. She works in many different mediums informed by ideas of waste and consumption. In 1993, Yao was a founding member of Emily's Sassy Lime, an all-Asian American teenage riot grrl trio from Southern California. The band dissolved in 1997. Yao received a Bachelor of Fine Art (1999) from Art Center College of Design in California and a Master of Fine Arts (2007) from Yale University in Connecticut. She currently teaches at Princeton University.
Selected exhibitions include the Institute for Fine Arts NYU, NY; Goton, Paris, FR; Indipendenza, Rome, IT; 47 Canal, New York, NY; VI, VII, Oslo, NO; Jack Hanley Gallery, New York, NY; Green Gallery, Milwaukee, WI; New Jerseyy, Basel, CH; and Mathew Gallery, Berlin, DE. MoMA PS1, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan, Korea; Swiss Institute, New York, NY; Honolulu Biennial 2019, HI; Musee d'Art Moderne, Paris, France; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson, AZ; San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, CA; He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, CN; Sommer Contemporary, Tel Aviv, IL; Air de Paris, FR; Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, NY; MAB Society, Shanghai, CN; and Andrew Kreps, New York, NY.