Fleischfreude (2009)

Fleischfreude (Self-Portrait), 2009, performance photo, dimensions variable

Evoking the obsession with the preparation and desire of food, the title directly references Carolee Schneeman’s seminal feminist performance work, Meat Joy, from 1964. The artist gazes unabashedly direct at the viewer; it seems to be a celebration of flesh and erotic ritual. Conflating sexual desire with the hunger for food, Fleischfreude is a critique of female objectification, while evoking the Japanese practice of Nyotaimori, where mostly male customers eat sushi off a very still naked woman’s body.

From the time of colonialism and foreign military occupation, Asian women have been particularly vulnerable to fetishization, sexualization, and marginalization. Insidious stereotypes have been perpetuated and disseminated across the globe, not only by Hollywood films, such as Full Metal Jacket and Heaven and Earth, but also in American fiction. This precise intersectionality can be a matter of life or death, as was in the case of the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings, when a white man killed six women of Asian descent, citing his sexual addiction as the cause for the mass murder.

Mirae kh RHEE’s Fleischfreude Self-Portrait is a work that marks a turning point in the artist’s solidarity with all Asian women, regardless their country of origin. It was a significant decolonizing moment when she realized that her own self-internalized racism, sexism, and classism was, in fact, being projected on others. Thus, Fleischfreude is not only a critique of Asian women being portrayed as submissive and hypersexualized, but also a reproach at herself for caring what others think.