Elevator Music 48: Alone, only in flesh

To leave, to live, then to return once again. How do we make sense of the newly unfamiliar? Expectations, hesitations, and new contemplations unfurl and transform prior to, during, and upon diasporic people’s returns to their homelands after forced and/or voluntary migration. Alone, only in flesh is a site-specific, collaborative meditation on three diasporic artists’ experiences in and between lands and waters, and how those experiences shape untranslatable connections to home and identity.

In this exhibition, Antonius-Tín Bui, Theresa-Xuan Bui, and MIZU meld the language of altars—spaces of presence, transcendence, and transmission—with the liminality of the shifting elevator and welcome all to commune with the unknown. Through a combination of spoken word poetry, experimental cello, traditional Vietnamese áo dài (garments), Southeast Asian home goods, and Asian snacks, the installation engages all five senses—aural, visual, haptic, olfactory, and gustatory.

Opening on Lunar New Year and stretching across several significant dates, including the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, this installation will continually evolve. The artists will return to Alone, only in flesh after visits to Vietnam and Japan and make new offerings reflecting their ever-changing relationships to their motherlands. In this way, the expanding exhibition invites visitors to immerse themselves in it each time anew.

Alone, only in flesh is anchored by the song “Sunrise” by Gus Dapperton, featuring the award-winning Vietnamese American poet and novelist Ocean Vuong, an excerpt of which reads:

When the light comes on
And through every street
The city is doused pink
By the dust of crushed hours
And you are alone only in flesh
And the ghosts you’ve loved walk with you here
On the edge of memory
When you are free only for the length of your name held in my mouth
And the dawn coming off the windows turns our hands blood red
And we are children again running heart-first towards the end of laughter
How strong will we be? How brave?
How every syllable alive?
No one told us we were good
But we were good
In possession of the cell’s flowering
As it vanishes inside all the yesterdays behind us
How can we not jump?
Here at the end, where each of your burning wings is finally made of music.

Antonius-Tín Bui (they/them) is a polydisciplinary artist and shapeshifter invested in the transformative potential of improvisation, portraiture, craft, and ritual. They are the child of Paul and Van Bui, two Vietnamese refugees who sacrificed everything to provide a future for their four children and extended family. Born and raised in the Bronx, Bui eventually moved to Houston before pursuing a BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MIC/A). Bui has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Kala Art Institute, Tulsa Artists Fellowship, Halcyon Arts Lab, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Yaddo, Anderson Center at Tower View, The Growlery, Jentel, and Fine Arts Work Center.

Theresa-Xuan Bui (they/them) is a queer, non-binary Vietnamese American artist questioning the intersections of the personal and political as a means for critically imagining the future. Through drawing and dancing, they translate their embodied practice into a performance of language and sound. The work does not seek to answer or proclaim, but rather openly and recklessly process the self within larger power structures. They are descended from Vietnamese refugees and are inspired to continue the legacies of vanguard Asian Americans. Born and raised in the Bronx, they moved to Houston before pursuing a BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MIC/A).

MIZU (she/her) is a Juilliard-trained experimental cellist exploring themes of transformation and the infinite possibilities within queerness, as well as the boundaries between concert, theater, and performance art. She builds expansive soundscapes by melding cello with electronic manipulation and experimental production, included in her recently released album Forest Scenes and her debut album Distant Intervals (spring 2023). MIZU also collaborates across media with movement artists such as Lili (Luyan Li), Kennie Zhou, and Antonius-Tín Bui; directors like George Miller and Dan Silver; and designers including MEGHUN. She has performed extensively with guitarist and electronic producer Rachika Nayar, opened for Tim Hecker at Pioneer Works, collaborated with techno producer and flutist Concrete Husband, and was featured on the recent album Spike Field by singer-songwriter Maria BC. Her performances have taken her to Tokyo, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Washington DC, and soon to The Hague, Netherlands, for Rewire 2024.

Em48 halfsheet line drawing
Exhibition Name
Elevator Music 48: Alone, only in flesh
Exhibition Type
Group Exhibitions
Elevator Music Series
Feb 10 - May 19
This exhibition is organized by Curatorial Assistant Ivy K. Vương in collaboration with the artists.
Antonius-Tín Bui, Theresa-Xuan Bui, MIZU
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