fiddling with my chew toy strolling across Matthew Wong’s River of Night (2018)

by Jane Shi

Jane Shi is a queer Chinese settler living on the unceded, traditional, and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations. Her poetry has appeared in The Fiddlehead, PRISM International, and CV2.

Smith also noted that none of the works were for sale. There was no talk of the artist’s market.
But collectors with an eye toward speculation can only be held back on moral grounds for so long.
By February, I got a text from an advisor asking where one could get a Matthew Wong, saying,
“I have a client who’s going to have a heart attack if he doesn’t get one—he will pay, like, any price.”

—Nate Freeman, May 7, 2020, “Art World Wet Paint: Jordan Wolfson
Really Hates the New Jordan Wolfson Documentary, a New York Gallery
Defies Quarantine, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip,” Art Net News

 

$1400 

                         By December I had been, as the Gen Z TikTokers say, wanting
               to unalive myself for 3 months straight. I wanted to see
                 if I could find the name of this Asian woman in Vancity’s arts community 
       who took her own life. The fact that we don’t know her name is haunting. 

$5000

           Google turns up another autist, born in Tkaronto, grew up
                   in Hong Kong. Tourette’s, tragedy’s (not causation). Matthew’s art
sold for tens of thousands of dollars after his death. No matter how sad or smart,  
           autodidacts don’t deserve to be bid to the grave. “Can’t exploit me if I’m a fuck-up,” 

$6800

I mumble through salty eyes / wishful thinking. The US State Department trained
       HK police to tear through the harbour while auctioneers 
salivated. Nostalgic for CIA-backed Pollock, the gears 
     of the Art World cranked out a beautiful mind and his hands, chained

$12K

raw to the steel of old money, new money, whiteness. 
    It’s scary out there, and not for the reasons you think. O
Matthew. Why did the artist steal the person? Why did you go 
     so soon? Thinking of suicide offers me escape; lightness.

$51K

      There’s nowhere on earth to escape to. 
In “River at Night,” the river is a road and the trees sway
and the flowers and leaves are boxes. “I want you to stay,” 
      Rihanna sings on Spotify. I want me to stay too. 

$400K

           This is the price of capitalism: small bug chews on bigger bug. 
             Big bug poisons small bugs with toxic goo from big shoe. 
      Big shoe squashes everyone in an instant. How big of a bug are you? 
                    Why would a shoe read about the price of capitalism? Ugh.  

$3 million 

       I look at your art for free, or at the rate of monthly Internet. Graze
               each brushstroke on the screen with haughty hands. I like 
       spending time with artists in the DTES and I like 
             painting weird faces. I don’t want to sell my art. The maze

$50 million 

of industry makes me develop an anxious tic where
        I say I’m a bad person like Beetlejuice, like a sticky curse. 
Back in 2015 a man who wrote Python verse 
      would tell me I’m a good. I try to believe him; paint a world I can bear. 


Jane Shi is a queer Chinese settler living on the unceded, traditional, and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations. Her poetry has appeared in The Fiddlehead, PRISM International, and CV2.

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