Using olfactory and mechanical engagements, my ongoing series 'Monsters Within’ investigates the uncanny, delving into my world of monsters. Sigmund Freud refers to the uncanny as a strange and anxious feeling sometimes created by familiar objects in unfamiliar contexts. It speaks of humans’ instinct to project repressed impulses upon objects/individuals to become an uncanny threat, from demons to uncanny monsters, and often become scapegoats for perceived calamities, miseries, and pandemics. Freud suggests that the uncanny arouses fear, a “class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar”.
The escalating political tensions between China and the West and President Donald Trump’s politicisation of COVID-19 as ‘the Chinese virus’ perpetuates the imperialist idea of Asia as ‘strange’ and ‘defective’ fuelling anxieties across communities globally. A recent COVID-19 Racism Incident Report Survey1 revealed that Asian-Australians (female majority) are being discriminated based loosely on issues such as eating habits and appearances. My daughter M was verbally demonised as a virus-carrying pet-eater by a peer during a two-minute-long encounter.
Now M Carries That Stone Too explores this pervasive projection of fear by opposing cultural ideas. M the monster emits aromas—smells gathered from her home and the natural Australian environment—breathing mechanically for two minutes at every forty-five minutes2 . The breathing process, humanise and unsettle the monster. The familiar smells, once culturally and geographically unique, reference the presence and integration of Asian culture within multicultural Australia; question the cultural biases against Asian hyphen identities in this COVID-19 period.