last chance

Mimi Biyao Bai. More-than-Self-Defense

25 May 2024 – 23 Jun 2024

Regular hours

12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00

Save Event: Mimi Biyao Bai. More-than-Self-Defense2

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A.I.R. Gallery

New York
New York, United States


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  • Subway: F to York Street, A or C to High Street, 2 or 3 to Clark Street
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A.I.R. Gallery is pleased to announce More-than-Self-Defense, an exhibition of drawing, sculpture, and installation by 2023–2024 Fellow Mimi Bai. This is Bai’s first solo exhibition in New York City.


In More-than-Self-Defense, Bai interrogates how the cultural fantasies we have inherited about  violence, safety, and survival collide with our lived realities. Incorporating research into Westerns and action films, fungi, and doomsday preppers, Bai asks: what does it mean to be prepared? How are representations of safety and survival centered around the individual rather than the collective or the structural? What are alternative modes of survival, adaptation, and creation?

The first element of this body of work is a series of carefully-rendered ink drawings of objects from Bai’s studio—a rubber mallet, a ruler, a c-clamp—that the artist recasts as potential weapons. The next component in the exhibition is a handmade harness with custom holsters for each tool/weapon that Bai modeled after military firearms holsters and combat belts. With Tools/Weapons and Harness, Bai examines her urge to “protect herself” in response to increased Sinophobia during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as her awareness that these tools/weapons represent a desire for control or agency but are not actual solutions to political and material conditions at the root of violence. Harness also toys with the fantasy of the individual, atomized artist-genius, working in isolation in the studio and armed with the tools to give form to her singular vision.

The final work in the exhibition is a mixed media installation primarily made from clay and string. Unlike the framed Tool/Weapons or the self-contained Harness, Net (clay) stretches outward, and appears to still be in the process of becoming. For Net (clay), Bai draws inspiration from fungal forms as well as the camouflage netting used in early twentieth-century warfare to disguise tanks, people, and positions, adopting the poetic and utilitarian qualities of netting as a form that can conceal, capture, and carry. Expanding outward, its borders largely unfixed, Net (clay) reflects a view on survival and creation rooted in entanglement, adaptation, and interdependence rather than individual will.

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Mimi Biyao Bai


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