.・゜゜・ a cyber-habitat of

Jingtian Zong˚. ୭ ˚○◦˚.˚◦○˚ ୧ .˚ₓ


DON’T RIDE OVER A CRACK (2023-ongoing)

#2-channel video installation, #infrastructure, #retrofuturism

Don't Ride Over A Crack, various iterations

Don’t Ride Over a Crack is a two-channel video installation investigating cracks in the American highway dream. Channeling the artist’s testimony of a bike accident in Santa Cruz to the history of U.S. highway development, the project tests the unstable speculative ground upon which a contemporary reality is constructed and invites contemplation about infrastructure, mobility, and vulnerability.

With its title adapted from a children’s rhyme and supposedly Euro-African superstition, “Step on a Crack, Break Your Mother’s Back,” the project questions whose bodies a failed road infrastructure is more likely to impact. A said origin of the rhyme rooted in inter-racial marriage phobia, where it reads as “Step on a Crack, and Your Mother Will Turn Black,” indicates a long history of how cracks might, in both material and rhetorical senses, target certain bodies over others.

Surrounded by photos and reports illustrating its geographical and socio-historical coordinates, the crack that caused the artist’s bike accident is transplanted into the gallery space. Videos of early Fordism productions and the 1939 New York World’s Fair Futurama loop through the crack-shape filter, while recordings of the artist biking on cracked Santa Cruz highways and closeup shots of the artist’s - an Asian woman’s skin - are juxtaposed.

Mary Potter Sesnon Gallery, Santa Cruz, March 2023
Institute of Art and Science, Santa Cruz, June 2023

Script for Sesnon Gallery Opening
March 16, 2023

On the evening of January 18, 2023, I hit a crack on Mission St while biking. As I walked my broken bike home, a wicked pleasure artists sometimes earn from disastrous events urged me to inspect the incident further: How did the crack form? When? Who will fix it? Can I fix it?

Living without a car in California has been a major life issue. My perfectionist spirit has yet to lead me to a good commute route. No car comes with many connotations: No second-hand furniture; No access to good Asian food; No portable storage space; Lack of sleep due to increased transportation time; More transportation expenses; Trouble traveling under bad weather; A potential loss of opportunities and connections…

Before diving further, I need to disclaim: cracks in American infrastructure are not my main research interest, likely not more than Chinese cyberfeminism. Central to this crack is the question of how, more than what and why. As an artist who believes in the power of locality and specificity, how should I create art in a space where I don’t belong? As a researcher who’s concerned about a remote land yet faces real-life challenges here, how can I be present in the reality where I reside?

Crashing into the ground was a literal way of grounding, although a painful one. I thought about filling the crack, dressing up as a construction worker. I thought about talking to local officials and attending city council meetings. I thought about exhibiting a cast of the crack, and leaving the real trouble to someone else. I considered starting a forum about public transportation within UCSC. But what does it mean to do all these with my body, an Asian body?

In the post-pandemic era, it has become an increasing instinct to question the boundary between the private and the public. I learned from my neighbor Mark that one must pay to get the pavement in front of their house fixed. Here, pavements are a public facility that needs to be taken care of by individuals. Cracks are road hazards for every individual that only Public Works could legally fix. In the logic of Fordism, a cracked road leads to the construction of more roads, and in turn, more cracks. The 1939 speculation of a futuristic nation supported by a well-developed interstate highway system has failed contemporary life, leaving some cracks in American society, probably more than I have seen.

In the absence of efficient enough state intervention, individuals and corporations have initiated their own agenda to fill cracks, borrowing power from ancient mosaics, male reproductive symbols, and pizza. Although the infrastructural failures are relatively well-studied, a question remains: Whose bodies fall into the crack? On the one hand, cracks seem fair, since every bike, even car, can become its target. Yet a white-collar cyclist who chooses to bike in no way holds the same stake as those with no option other than biking. Within one month of my accident, all three residents in my household had injuries from biking. All three are immigrants. Is this a coincidence?

Risking drifting our attention from the social to the purely environmental, but hoping to question the fundamental definitions and boundary of the two, I want to think about the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a disaster of which I bear no witness and could only imagine. Diastrophism provides us with another perspective to think about cracks. In a conversation with Laurie Palmer, it came to me that the entire California lies on a giant crack, the San Andreas Fault. Some cracks form geographically and become social; some the other way around. Perhaps smoothness is temporary; cracks persist.

While natural disasters remind us of the fragile nature of our human constructions, they also witness the uneven distribution of our attention in the face of infrastructure failures — Among historical reports about the Loma Prieta earthquake that I found, many cast spotlights on San Francisco (notably the Bay Bridge and Interstate 880), even though one report mentioned that Santa Cruz had far more homes and businesses damaged or destroyed, and the quake’s center was clinically within Santa Cruz county.

For now, I leave the crack there as a reminder, a piece of evidence.