I focused on The Chocolate Kiss Project for several years which examined the concept of the Other through Blackness, using the lens of the racial triangulation theory, coined by political scientist and Professor Claire Kim in her essay, The Racial Triangulation of Asian-Americans.
In this series, I incorporated the well-known German sweet, Choco Kiss, ofﬁcially known as Negerkuss and Mohrenkopf (N*****’s/Negro’s Kiss and Moor’s Head respectively) before the 1980s. Later, the candy companies thankfully changed the names to Schokokuss (chocolate kiss) and Schaumkuss (foam kiss). The old names, however, are still in common usage by the mainstream. Furthermore, this project reference two songs that were popular in the mid-19th century and still played today, The Ten Little Indians and The Ten Little N*****s, in which all the Indians and all the N*****s eventually die by the songs’ end. Moreover, the children’s book called The Ten Little N*****s was first printed in 1890 and is even still the most widely circulated book for children ever printed in Germany.
I’ve been challenged by some (mostly white Germans) who consider it taboo, out of my league, or simply not authentic to be making work about “Blackness,” and I’d like to unpack that. The fact that I am calling attention to this politically incorrectly named snack, the N*****kuss (N*****/Negro Kiss) as an Asian American woman, could be seen as contentious. What does it mean for a non-black person to deal with blackness? How can I contribute to a discursive conversation about race when the framework for speaking is frequently only in black and white terms?
Thus, I consider my role in naming and performing with the snack, as an instigator in underlining the culpability of a those German speakers who continue to use the term. I don’t buy the predictable justification, “it’s not mean to be racist [böse].” This seemingly harmless candy title has important social implications in how we perceive and treat not only black people, but all people who are considered outside of the mainstream, foreigners, non-white people, queer, or non-Germans. The established power, by naming a candy after a racial or minority group, even if it’s meant to be harmless, demeans this minority to an object, an object which lacks individuality and subject hood (so for example, even if it wasn’t named with the N-word and instead named African’s kiss, this would still be highly problematic). Thus, I have a stake in this harmlessly named candy. Any type of orientalizing or othering of a group affects all who are standing outside of the norm, as we all have the potential to be objectified and rendered just a harmless candy.
Works in the Series:
Asians are the New Jews, from 2015, is a related performance, that further explores the ideas set forth in the racial triangulation theory.
Ach, Du heilige Scheiße! is a video work from 2012 that served as the jumping off point to this project.