Scan it

Grief

To the Land

The Study of Yulan, 2020

Sijia Ma

Smith College

Whether I was aware of it or not, my lifelong ideals of race and identity were shaped and linked by social media content. In my ongoing photography project Scan It, I unravel my experience of being abused, marginalized, and dismantled on social media. These images were produced in September 2020 during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak and through the United States’ political upheaval. In my images, I investigate the ways in which Asian-American identities are connected to societal expectations by combining self-portraiture with QR codes embedded in the scenes. From my experiences scanning others, connecting to friends and family, and, alternatively, isolating myself entirely from society, I regard these QR codes as representations of the unattainable status not afforded fairly to those I love.

As a Chinese international student, I produced this series in Shanghai where my work was once rejected for publication because my artist statement was not “politically correct.” I found myself immensely frustrated and lost as I am deeply committed to exploring the gray area between the current political climate and social media influences. I hope this photography exhibition will allow me the artistic freedom I was denied when my art was dismissed in China. For so long, I’ve been carrying this project around like a heavy load on my back; this is the publication in which freedom is finally democratized, where our voices are valued.