About the Artist
Her work has been included in Contemporary Art Museum (St. Louis, MO), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, NE), Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, MO), Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia, PA), American Medium (New York, NY), Vox Populi (Philadelphia, PA), FAIR. (Miami Beach, FL), The 3rd New Digital Art Biennale – The Wrong (Again), I Never Read (Basel, Switzerland), FILE: Electronic Language International Festival (São Paulo, Brazil), The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (Grand Rapids, MI), The Luminary (St. Louis, MO), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (Los Angeles, CA), Roman Susan (Chicago, IL), CENTRAL BOOKING ART SPACE (New York, NY), Syndicate (Cologne, Germany), K-Gold Temporary Gallery (Lesvos, Greece) and Invisible Space (Taipei, Taiwan). She has been awarded fellowship at Vermont Studio Center (Johnson, VT), and residencies at The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), Endless Editions (New York, NY), LPP+ Residency at Minnesota Street Projects (San Francisco, CA) and Paul Artspace (Florissant, MO). Her Risograph publication, SMELLS LIKE CONTENT (Endless Editions, New York) is in the Artist book collection of the MoMA Museum of Modern Art Library (New York, NY).
She currently lives and works in New York.
2017 Summer Exhibition
2016 Summer Residency
By Lucy Commoner, May 2017
What is your history of involvement with the Wassaic Project and how has that engagement impacted your practice?
In April 2016, I was an artist-in-residence at the Wassaic Project. It was the first time I had the opportunity to reduce my life to studio work, and of course other basic needs for survival, food, hydration, headspace for reflection, etc. At that time, I didn’t bring any pre-existing work for the residency, nor did I have an automobile to acquire/transport materials. This condition that I set up for the residency is fundamentally crucial as a way of adapting to what can be seen and treated as material. Therefore, everything I made during the residency directly reflected what I had in mind and what was available on hand. The idea of being elsewhere required a particular adaptation or re-establishment and is a lot like making art for me: re-assigning meaning to new objects or behaviors. It is also a way to confront what is left after a certain purification of the mind. When I was in Wassaic during the winter, I started three bodies of work, one of which led to the video in the summer exhibition.
You are an artist and a curator whose work is multi-media and includes sculpture, installations, photography, and video. How do you view the whole range of your artistic output?
I see everything as a form of translation. Making, curating, working with a variety of media is ultimately about finding the right language for what I wish to convey. And one certainly cannot know everything, so it's always a learning experience; a certain idea requires a particular medium during a given period, and it might change for its second or third iteration. An ocean can be an arrangement of metal-steel bookends; sometimes it can be a combination of water skis, foam kickboards, and an umbrella stand. A letter to a person can be a video; it can only be written as a video because it’s the only language I have for certain emotions.
Text plays an important and poetic role in your work. You seem interested as well in verbal and gestural communication. As a multi-lingual individual, with your mother tongue being Taiwanese Mandarin, do you think this has impacted your interest in text and communication?
Communication has always been one of the key elements in my practice, and it’s generated from the frustration of being unable to communicate thoroughly through verbal or written text. For me, the multi-lingual acquisition is a particular kind of disability; the languages I acquired are constantly canceling each other out over time. The only person I speak Taiwanese Mandarin with is my mother, and most of my daily life now is filled with the English language, also, more superficially — visual language in English-speaking cultures, which of course includes audio, tactile, and various kind of stimulations. The desire to translate what happened internally to an external/tangible medium is always my primary fuel in making art. The gap of translation is also one of the key factors that generate that desire, which is why lots of works land on poetry (in various media). The reduction of language not only emphasizes the weight of each word, but also is an attempt to express the struggle of finding the “right” words.
In your current installation, Everytime I Said Something to You Deeply and Untechnical, (2017), there is a compelling incongruity between sections of the video as you present a digital collage of elements, including footage appropriated from other sources. Can you illuminate your thinking in putting together the video?
The video is composed with the style of digital collage through visual lexicons, which contain a mixture of found footage and my videos. The layering discloses an internal system of how certain meanings are assigned; I think it is how we access visual knowledge nowadays, a mixture of visual information we browse through whichever streaming platform combined with a personal archive. Then the stamp of time becomes fundamental for assigning meaning — a particular day/time we received a certain image, imprints it with the sentiments — like an emblem, a marker of unnamable emotions.
This video is a letter to a person. Before I decided the kind of visual language I wanted to use, I was really truly just trying to write a letter to this person, and then it was almost too much of a weight to put everything in written text. And through the frustration of not being able to express myself through written text, I thought showing references as a universal language to signify a collective understanding of some meanings would be a good way to start a conversation, i.e., memes and gifs that are commonly used as a way of saying “ that feeling when _____” but with the emotional intensity that follows the pacing of how I try to “narrate” to this person. It is similar to how we perceive a cinematic experience when it is a foreign film: we read through subtitles. It’s a way to reaffirm the meaning of the visual, and vice versa the visual is to reaffirm the text/emotions. The visual is providing an alternative for the eyes to rest on, in case the weight of the text is too heavy. More specifically, I think the visual footage serves as a surrogate for the languages that are missed in text-based communication, i.e. eye contact and my body language.
Photos by Verónica González Mayoral