Candy-Glazed Eyes of Haunted Machines

In my latest project, “Candy-Glazed Eyes of Haunted Machines,” I’ve been gathering images, qualitative historical data, aesthetics, and even feelings that exist at the margins of categorization. The project focuses on coin-operated children’s rides, which arrived in Taiwan in the form of Mickey Mouse and Pikachu characters from colonial powers. They were maintained by laborers such as my grandfather, whose home fiberglass and paint workshop likely poisoned our three family dogs. Over the years, the rides acquired layers of amateur makeup, their cuteness morphing into the absurd. I’m interested in how these rides contain traces of colonial and post-colonial aesthetics, which were also closely tied to my family’s class position.

In the studio, I became intrigued by the feelings and meanings that the aesthetics of the rides induce. Through making my own digital and sculptural forms––fiberglass pikachu faces, images from horror “documentaries,” and kinetic sculptures that exploit the comforting and uncanny rocking motion of kiddie rides––I’m trying to play with the many forms of nostalgia and uncover the root of the haunted aesthetic of the rides. I have also dived into patent archives and conducted interviews with other kiddie ride technicians in the US. Following an interview with a repairman in Brooklyn, who tried to sell me his withering kiddie ride company to get into the metaverse, I became curious about parallels between the entertainment vending machine market and how NFTs and the metaverse manipulate the concept of ownership.

esources, David Blackmon