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Rotch Library Exhibit

Figuring the Middle Ground

A Search for Authorship in Perceiving China's COVID-19 Lockdowns

May 16, 2023 - June 15, 2023

Image of exhibit poster with a black grid background and white graphics depicting people wearing face shields, cell phones, vaccination cardsCurator Tour + Reception: May 16th, 12pm-1pm

Witnessing and attempting to comprehend China’s controversial response to COVID-19 over the past three years from a geographically distant yet culturally and emotionally intimate standpoint, I have grappled with multiple perspectives, sometimes as an insider, sometimes as an outsider, and most of the time as an impostor to both. As I continually query the incoherence of my positionality, I find myself in an obscure middle ground where my voice is filtered as inauthentic and unheeded. I ask myself: What should I do? What can I do?

This project is an effort to give myself a voice in the process of figuring out the “middle ground”—a gradient of unsettled propositions stretching between cultural identities, negotiating with constructed collective memories, and discursively evolving over a three-year-long uncanny journey trying to perceive the COVID-19 lockdowns in China. By accepting the “middle ground” as a valid stance, I was able to devise a set of methods for navigating the complexity of materials gathered at various times and locations. In addition, utilizing architectural representation tools, I curated a collection of works that reproduce the research process and exhibit the processed information.

This endeavor is not intended to rationalize pandemic control. Rather, it cultivates a ground for reflection that deconstructs a dichotomous perception of good and evil, drawing attention to individual lived experiences that provide a nuanced interpretation of the COVID-19 pandemic as an international health emergency that affected everyone. Although somewhat fuzzy and uneasy, the “middle ground” position indicates the possibility that a personal desire to develop one’s authorship can lead to a means of making sense of a global crisis.

Curator: San Zhang, Graduate student at the Department of Architecture, MIT SA+P