Meet David Xu Borgonjon
May 4, 2015
Meet our 2015 Fellows!
Please tell us of an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced you or inspired you?
I admire Zhang Yue. He spends his days collecting information on esoteric and pressing matters like bomb attacks worldwide, the speed of decay of bullet wounds, pornographic censoring guidelines, prison slang… It’s part of an earnest, ambitious and almost-doomed project to make sense of the world through willpower, Microsoft Excel, and his drawing skills. He once told me a story about passing through Harlem on one of his infrequent trips to New York. Some teenagers on bicycles stopped him and started teasing him, probably because he was obviously from out of town. When he tried to ignore them, they got more aggressive and began to push him, so he pressed the lead kid on the left shoulder and his right arm shot up (he’s a boxer and did time, though you wouldn’t know it from his paunch and nerdiness). It’s a pressure points thing. And then they backed off. As someone who’s been asked if I know Tiger Fist by a stranger, I thought there was a perverse pleasure to hearing this story of confirmed stereotypes: annoying teenagers in Harlem, kungfu Chinese strangers passing through. It’s like a Rush Hour scene, but without the mutual understanding at the end.
Please tell us about a place in your neighborhood that is personally meaningful to you, and why?
This is a difficult question for me to answer because I’ve always moved a lot—my mother’s in real estate and I think she took some of her professionalism into our family life too, and I suppose I’ve been infected. But speaking of my mother, I suppose I’d pick Carmine’s on 90th and Broadway in the Upper West Side. It’s a cute Italian restaurant that my mother and I have been to twice on her infrequent visits, and each time she swoons over it. I think she’s drawn to the ideas of sophistication, design and romance that Italy suggests. There’s plenty of Italian restaurants in Beijing, too, but that Mediterranean style is for her a kind of world to aspire to, to build around herself. So I like that the cute Italian restaurant can just float above its immediate context, somewhere in the atmosphere, above Beijing and New York.
What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?
I’d like to talk about the place of “visitors” in the New York cultural world that’s a broad category including tourists, exchange students, and foreign contractors. These people come from all different backgrounds but share a transient and insecure relationship to the city. The field notes might come from a Chinese student group at a university or a Korean karaoke bar.
David Xu Borgonjon is a curatorial fellow at Wave Hill, currently based in Harlem. He is the co-founder of Screen, a bilingual Chinese and English platform for media art commentary and will curate “Really, Socialism?” at Momenta Art in September 2015. He believes that every idea should have an institution.