Mark Tan, Labor of Liberty, 2022. 2×4’s, Punch Clock, Plastic and Paper, 30 x 30 x 18 inches.
The Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American freedom; its tolls loudly announce the Declaration of Independence. Its song speaks to the rights and freedoms valued by those who dream of working for a better life and ultimately lures migrants away from other nations. To many, this bell represents the declaration of false freedom, liberty, and unity.
I refaced a manual punch clock into a shape that resembles the Liberty Bell by using 2×4’s, a material of domestic construction, to re-create the sense of industry and migrant labor workforce who are relocating for opportunity. The condition of the migrant and the nature of labor in society.
Form I-94 is the Department of Homeland Security’s Arrival/Departure Record issued to aliens admitted to the United States, those who are adjusting status while in the United States, or those extending their stay. It shows the terms of your admission, including your legal status, the length of time you may stay, and the expected departure date. For migrants, it represents being tracked and recorded in the United States.
I used my personal data from form I-94 and translated the information into time cards of my arrival and departure dates since 2011. I’ve asked all visitors to fill out a time card and punch in while visiting the space and to punch out when the visitor is ready to leave and add it to the racks.
Mark Tan is a first-generation Canadian who was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario by Asian immigrants. He migrated to the United States and has lived here for 7 years. Through his work, Tan expresses the emotional value of preconceived notions, disconnectedness, and longing in search of finding place and acceptance within a community. Drawing from memory, personal narrative, emotion, and perception, Tan manipulates data into lines, forms, and materials through a subjective human experience from the lens of a non-citizen. By projecting the migration movement of his family lineage from China and the Philippines to Canada, as well as his path to the United States, Tan deconstructs and reconstructs the meaning and purpose of fragmented identity. Using statistical data that represents migration patterns, his own identification number, and metaphors around borders and access, Tan explores representations of phenomena, displacement, belonging, and defeat as a response to social and cultural order. Through his formal training as a woodworker, Tan’s work aims to communicate sympathy through hardship, accessibility, and the desire of a migrant finding place. He produces aesthetically engaging sculptural forms made from reclaimed solid wood, found materials, and domestic construction building materials at an architectural scale.