1954, Xiamen, China–2019, Paris
American Kitchen and Chinese Cockroaches, 2019
Plywood, MDF, metal, gypsum board, plastic, resin, linoleum, ceramics, cardboard, enamel
Kitchen: 380 x 378 x 271 cm
Cockroaches: three males, each 135 x 45 x 25 cm; two females each 110 x 45 x 30 cm
Courtesy of the artist
Specially commissioned for the exhibition The Coming World, the new installation by Paris-based artist Huang Yong Ping is a visual metaphor of how the artist sees the world today: shrunk to the size of a kitchen and invaded by cockroaches, the most common inhabitants of the kitchen ecosystem. The commission is an unrealized idea that Huang first conceived in 2006. Constructed in Moscow thirteen years later, the installation has taken on a prophetic quality in the light of the economic war America recently declared on China and the new geopolitical order that is taking shape.
Key to understanding the piece is a historical event, the so-called Kitchen Debate, that took place at the opening of the American National Exhibition in Sokolniki Park in Moscow in 1959. In a series of exchanges which took place in front of a model America kitchen, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev debated the merits of capitalism and communism. Sixty years later, the American kitchen from the photographs finds itself in Russia, overtaken by giant Chinese cockroaches. Huang’s meticulous reproduction takes the symbolic scene to an extreme by producing each part of it in the respective country: the kitchen walls were constructed in Russia, the vintage appliances bought and shipped from the United States, and the silicone cockroaches were produced in China especially for this new historic meeting.