Last year, in my solo exhibition "Endless Peaks," I unfolded the entire presentation as a "painted film," in which the video, photography, and painting, including the black mirror and the cavernous hole towards the second floor, are fragmented clips of a film that integrate into the entire exhibition space. The concept of "painted film" is similar to the format of ancient Chinese handscroll painting, which unfolds from left to right, with a narrative structure connected as a montage. Now I'm working on the publication of Endless Peaks, which is again is akin to a literary or textural film that does not engage writing but adopts authentic images of landscape, paintings, frames from moving images to stimulate the reader's imagination. If you have seen the exhibition, this viewing and reading experience will constitute a different version of this film. Rather than conceiving it as a classic ninety-minute film, it’s an expanded concept. It is both different from and related to my previous "library film" and "tomorrow’s audience" style "museum film."
In short, it is a film concept that tries to break away from the general narrative film and emphasizes its film format. This attempt marks an essential idea in our oriental art. For instance, the ambiguity in Chinese culture is often unspeakable but understood through one’s impression, and its subtlety affords room for imagination and spiritual depth. My practice has been approaching “insightful understanding,” which often comes from the viewer's understanding. And the so-called "imaginative film" expands from one's imagination, invisible and yet to happen, where the viewer can watch the work in parts. From which, one would come up with visions and atmospheres from this hidden and complete concept.
I have a background in oil painting, but today it is impossible for my paintings to return to the previous perception and expression. I may have pursued techniques in the past, but now when I paint to express my ideas and concepts, where I ask myself whether I would reach and express them through painting? In the past, I relied on film to achieve “insightful understanding," but now I wonder if the same is possible through painting. I juxtapose different media, figure drawings, acrylic paintings, and photography to forming a "triptych," like a montage of images, which embodies a conscious attempt to undo the boundaries and create a new narrative relationship and structure.
Heritage Falls Park, located in the Monterey Park near the Vincent Price Art Museum, consists of a grassy hillside bisected by a tiered fountain with a niche to the end. It was built in the late 1920s by a real-estate developer named Peter N. Snyder, who originally installed in the niche a marble sculpture of a female figure that he referred to as “Athena” in honor of his Greek heritage. The sculpture mysteriously disappeared shortly after it was installed, and the fountain sat empty until 2005, when the Monterey Park Historical Society installed another “Athena” as replacement. Neither the original sculpture nor its replacement bears any of the formal signifiers commonly associated with the Greek goddess Athena.
In 2016, artist Wang Xu granted Equitable Vitrines the permission to use his sculpture Eve (2015) in a proposal for an intervention at the Heritage Falls Park. Wang produced Eve at a marble quarry and commercial sculpture factory in Quyang, China by recovering a damaged statue of the Biblical figure and re-carving it according to the image of a woman who worked at the factory. The proposal would have temporarily placed Eve in the fountain alongside the replaced Athena, which was also imported from Quyang. Equitable Vitrines rescinded its proposal at the conclusion of a debate over the project at a meeting of the Monterey Park City Council in 2017.
Wang Xu’s Garden of Seasons features a marble sculpture, Untitled Athena, and a two-channel video, Garden of Seasons that combines footages recording the process of making the Athena sculpture, and the video clips of the city council debating on the destiny of the sculpture, Eve. Through language, the meaning of art becomes abstract.
The works on view are from my project, Garden of Seasons (2019). The project is a special production for my solo exhibition at the Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park, USA, with the support of the non-for-profit art organization Equitable Vitrines. The presentation was also a response to the city council's rejection of my sculpture Eve which traveled to the city a year ago. At that time, the City of Monterey Park held a meeting at the city council with both supporters and opponents. After two hours of debate, members of the committee voted by a show of hands to deny the motion to place Eve in the Waterfalls Park and let it "meet" with Flora, the existing landscape sculpture at the top of the fountain.
In reviewing the council meeting's content, I stumbled upon the fact that Flora at the top of the fountain is not the "Athena" that the opponents had stated and defended. Moreover, the difference between this statue and the Athena, known as the "guardian of the city" since 1920, is apparent. They were supported by subsequent sources, which show that they are two very different statues. The sudden appearance of Athena undermines our original vision of the Eve proposal. Since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, it has gradually become the world's factory. The garden statues of Flora and Eve, fabricated in Quyang, Hebei province, were born fifteen years ago. In 2002, Eve was abandoned due to a defect. In 2003, Mary Duce and Charles Carter purchased Flora and considered it as Athena, placing it in the Waterfall Park's shrine in Monterey Park. Fifteen years later, Eve was discovered by chance, re-carved, and brought to the United States as a work of art for an exhibition. Once I found their story unexpectedly, I had the idea of creating a dialogue. That is, by arranging a meeting between Eve and Flora at the Waterfalls Park, visitors would contemplate on the stories of these global "commodities" in our immediate surroundings. Hence, the elements of "chance" and "serendipity" in this story would trigger a discussion on their inevitability.
After the rejection of Eve, I soon fell into the intrigue of Athena. After a period of research and study in the County records, I learned that Athena's statue was created as a fictitious totem by real estate developers to attract middle-class immigrants to the area to sell real estate. Until this day, neither of the two statues placed here is Athena, but both were "forced" to play their role. This mistake is not only man-made, but also related to the complex history of immigration in the area. This "mistake" lasted for a hundred years while residents moved in and the city urbanized; the Monterey Park is no longer the barren land it once was but has grown to accommodate millions of immigrants as a satellite city. New immigrants from all over the world have long accepted Athena's presence with "goodwill." Based on this serendipitous discovery, I approached the Vincent Price Art Museum with a proposal to create a new Athena statue that would meet the standards of Greek mythology. These ideas consist of the main content of "Garden of Seasons." The moving images are interspersed with the debate from the day of the hearing about Eve’s fate. In the crevices of language, Eve, as a statue as Athena, her identity was questioned repeatedly, and art becomes both specific and abstract at that moment.
I was trained as a sculptor in college with a bias toward realism. Over those five years, I undertook many live exercises using actual figures as models. Thus, focusing on the human figure and representing it from the perspective of portraiture became an intuitive starting point for my subsequent work. Then I went to New York to continue my studies. During my two years of graduate school, I gradually began to integrate conceptual and performative aspects into my work and practice. I experimented with ephemeral, perishable materials such as caramel in making sculptures and making outdoor performances with sculptures. From there, I began to integrate video work into my practice, filming the sculptures and bodies, the bodily movements, and the transformation of sculptures. As the sculpture dissolves, the bodily movements cease, leaving the camera lens to witness the human instinct and material encounters. In my works, the static component is inevitably dissolved over time, and in this process, the moving images grow unexpectedly. As a metamorphosis, extinction turns the moving images into a monument to the static. To this day, I continue with this kind of creative inertia, adopting the moving image to collate the body, movements, and moments.
I have been involved in a collective creation of sculptures, which has given me the experience of creative "abstinence," where the individual often compromises in the face of power discourse. Therefore, for me, the sculpture is compulsive and blind, embedded with ruptures; in other words, the medium tends to overlook an individual's spirit. In making moving images, I can release such a sense of contradiction, and express resistance explicitly. It disintegrates the overarching experience of sculpture and allows for the unhinged essence of creative intent. Or rather, unlike making sculptures, I hope to visualize the lyrical and romantic, which are perhaps based on the attitude and experience from observing and making sculptures, that emotions often disintegrate meanings, and the individual needs to be set free. Therefore, the relationship between the two is neither about simple severance or partnership nor unintended symbiosis but aimed at the hope of freeing each other without harm.