Beauty Standards

Michele Cheng & Seiyoung Jang

DMA Composition, '25, Dept. of Music; Doctoral Candidate, Harvard University

Michele Cheng is an interdisciplinary composer, improviser, and multi-instrumental performer intertwining music, theatre, visuals, and puppetry to engage with social issues and cultural identities. She builds custom instruments and puppets and collaborates with artists across cultural practices. She has received commissions, grants, and scholarships from the JACK Quartet, National Sawdust, I Care If You Listen, New Music USA, and Atlantic Center for the Arts. Her works have been featured at Roulette (US), CCRMA (US), ICMC (Chile), ISSTA (Ireland), Sonorities (UK), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon (France), AMKL (Poland), NTCH (Taiwan), SICMF (South Korea), TMAO (Thailand), among others. Michele cofounded Meoark, an experimental pop duo, and fff, a collective led by feminist media artists.

Seiyoung Jang (b. 1993) is a composer, improviser, and maker currently based in South Boston, MA. She aims to celebrate manifestations of organic forms in resistance of thoughtless sterility, with a focus on intersubjectivity and embodiment. She has studied with Laetitia Sonami, James Fei, Ted Coffey, Maggi Payne, Chris Brown, and Pauline Oliveros, among others. She obtained her MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College, Oakland, CA, and a BA in Psychology and Music from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. Seiyoung is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Practice & Critical Inquiry at Harvard University under the guidance of Vijay Iyer.

This installation comments on the politics behind beauty standards. The artists recorded their faces with Snapchat’s filters and referenced gestures seen in commercials and TV news. The artists then reflected on the videos by performing/recording on the electronics instruments they built.

Asian American women are often sexualized by the Western gaze, and Asian American’s images are hyper-racialized by intrusive technology, like face filters and AI. Through gazing at their artificial faces, the artists ruminate on the uncanny valley of generalized beauty standards. Through responding with electronic soundscape created by their own custom instruments, the artists are reclaiming their self-expression by giving their images new meaning.

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