Sugar Bomb

Artist Statement
Kirk Ke Wang

One of my favorite childhood memories is the joy of tasting Cuban brown sugar during the cold war time in China. One day, my Mom brought home a bag and said: “This will be our last time eating Cuban sugar, because of the U.S. trade embargo.” I was very disappointed. Who would predict that 40 some years later, I savored Cuban brown sugar again in Havana!

Before taking the trip to Cuba this year, I was “brainwashed” that people in Cuba are all defiant proletarian monsters, living in a depressed life, and they hate America and the bourgeoisies. How wrong I was. I found Cuban people are indeed poor yet seemly dignified and happy. They like Americans and their materialistic stuff! I had the same wrong impressions when I first arrived in America 27 years ago. Through the propaganda of the Mao’s era, I was told that America is a war thirst, selfish and profit driven society. Yet I met so many loving and compassionate individuals in my life here. FDR was right: only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

My Cuban trip inspired the concept of this installation: the love-hate relationship between opposite or different societies. Each side wants to benefit politically and culturally with persuasion, influence, and propaganda. During China’s cultural revolution, Western lifestyle was labeled as a “sugar coated bomb (糖衣炮?).” But eventually the sugar bomb blasted the ascetic gate wide open!

I sculpted many “bombs” made of Cuban brown sugar that I “smuggled” in, tobacco leaves, Trayvon Martin’s Skittle candies in Chinese containers, American-made “High Life” beer bottles, erotic icons, as well as materials of cultural identity. Those bombs shower down as we are attacked, with their red trajectory pointing at the school chairs flying into the wall. Via earphones connected to the chair, audience can secretly listen to revolutionary propaganda songs, while the pro-western romantic songs that I recorded at the park in Havana are playing...

I hope the paradox and irony of “bombs” made of “sweets” would instigate a debate about our mental state of fear in today’s seemly dangerous world. What about things that appear lethal yet taste good? What about real threats disguised under the sweetness?

Should we fear?