Yichong Hu “Della”, China

Images from the end of semester exhibition (December 2014)

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Final Project Statement:

Observe, that is what I tell myself everyday. Observe as an outsider. Through the lens of an alien instead of a member of human being. That is how one understands human race. People are “terrific”. It is such an accurate word, containing both the positive and the negative to the extreme. As I am trying to stay neutral about human, it often confuses me with how cruel human beings can be to things that are so interdependent with them both psychologically and environmentally. I thusly strive to examine these complex beings, sourcing from my own experience and also from the broader outside world. Segmentation is one of my main interests. It distorts things, some part of it gets emphasized and yet the other parts get diminished. I am often amazed by its similarities to human memories and many other subconscious twisted inner world that human beings carry with them and deeply believe in. My collaborative work “Territorial and Anatomical Fragmentation” with Alexa Katz is trying to rebuilt the subconscious world within human beings by using tangible objects which reconstruct how human beings really envision themselves. In order for the viewers to see their own reflections, it is necessary for them to block the light source that is placed behind them and thus creates the constant struggle of viewing.

Snapshots from Open Studio event Nov 14 at the Siena Art Institute: 

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Finalized structures for the collaborative installation “Today is Tomorrow: The Future of Colle” in the Archeological Museum of Colle di Val d’Elsa:

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La mia idea di spazio è legata ad un ambiente armonico che contenga sia edifici tradizionali, che contemporanei. Benché le strutture degli edifici siano nel complesso contemporanee, in essi ho cercato di intrecciare elementi sia moderni che classici. La mia visione del futuro di Colle è quella di una città che connetta il futuro e il presente. Non sarà una città italiana persa alla ricerca di urbanizzazione. Colle sa quale direzione prendere e sa anche che il suo passato è reso onorevole dall’essere stata un centro multiculturale, contemporaneo e artisticamente attivo. Ho anche progettato i miei edifici affinché interagiscono con gli altri proprio come i pezzi di un puzzle.

La costruzione che ho strutturato in blocchi può anche svilupparsi in spazi verticali multipli che rendono possibile all’architettura di interagire con la gente in una nuova prospettiva. Mentre le persone attraversano gli stretti vicoli al di sotto dell’edificio, sono circondate da architetture non soltanto lateralmente, ma anche sopra di loro. Nella mia area ho incluso anche l’acqua che abbraccia gli edifici e diventa parte dell’architettura.

My idea about my space is a harmonious environment that contains both traditional and contemporary buildings. While the structures of the buildings are overall contemporary, I intertwined traditional and natural elements into it. My vision for Colle’s future is a city that connects the future and the present. It won’t be an Italian city that is lost in the search for urbanization. Colle knows its direction and that is a multicultural, contemporary and artistic city that honors its past. I also designed my buildings so they can interact with each other like puzzle pieces. My block-like building can also create multiple vertical spaces that allow my building to interact with people in a new perspective. While people pass by the narrow roads under the building, they are surrounded by the architectures not only from sides but also from up above. I also incorporated water into my space that hugs the buildings and becomes a part of the architecture.

Work-in-progress, collaborative installation “Today is Tomorrow: The Future of Colle.”

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Oct 20, 2014:  Fifth Reading Response:  “The Blue of Distance” from Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

The idea of representing distance by using blue is fascinating. Since it is constantly a battle to represent space in a 2D world such as paintings, the color of the shades becomes one of the most essential elements in a painting. Painters had been using blue as an important way to show depth and distance in order to create a 3D space. I am particularity interested in the emotional space that blue helps to create. As she points out in the article that blue is the color for desire and on some level nostalgia, both with great distance. There is no need, however, to resolve such emotional distance. The action of shortening such emotional distance is often confused with the shortening of its physical distance. Yet there are no necessary connections between the two. On the contrary, to diminish the physical distance of such emotions often means to alter the subject matter. People mistaken the alternation for the resolution but it is merely a mechanism in human brains that protects human feelings by reorganize and “logicalize” the subject. Yet the desire still lies there, forgotten, ignored and overlooked. Thus blue seems like a perfect way to represent such emotional distance because of its sole abstractness and its own feeling of distance.

Oct 13, 2014:  Project Statement, “Today is Tomorrow: The Future of Colle”

Colle has a very dense history and a strong urge to change. It is not uncommon in the history. I can strongly relate to that because China, too, has many cities like Colle. It is an art to walk on the fine string to avoid a city for being too metropolitan while trying to urbanize a city. It is often considered that being a metropolitan city is the final resolution for being international. To contain diverse cultures, one city has to compromise its own culture. I wouldn’t say that the Chinese cities I’m taking into consideration are perfectly evolved to the situation. However, looking at the cities that had similar needs helps me visioning the future of Colle. Hangzhou, the city where I come from, also went through many changes. It is rather controversial to decide it all the changes are good. But I can see that to preserve one city, it is important to preserve the environmental icon of the city.

Colle’s culture is very architectural. The architectural elements in Colle are essential and for that the future of Colle shouldn’t have to tear down any buildings with such rich history. Also, art is such a wonderful way of communicating. One way for Colle to be global is to bring art all around the world to Colle. Not in a newly built museum, but integrated into Colle’s buildings. Street art, for example, can be a very lively form.

Colle’s identity also has to do with paper and glass manufacturing. The new Colle will resemble its past by inviting paper and glass architectures and art works into the city. Such as the John Hancock Tower in Boston, the same methodology can be borrowed suiting to Colle’s setting. So that the reflective mirrors one the building can represent again the city itself. So that a building can be both new and old, just like the Colle.

 

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Oct 8, 2014: Fourth Reading Response:  Questions for Prof. Ulivieri on Vernacular Architecture

1. The article mentioned how the “global” often cancels things out through sheer ignorance of the loss of value involved. Yet many methodology and the symbolism behind the vernacular architecture seems very universal. Can you explain what is “the loss of value” stated in the previous statement caused by “global”?
2. If it has to do with globalization. What do you think about its influence on the vernacular architecture today? (Because cultural exchanges always exist, the speed of how the world is globalizing is what people really concern about.)

Sept 23, 2014:  Third Reading Response:

Hourani’s idea of Photolife is intriguing. From a spectator’s point of view, it is a very efficient way to connect the reality and the surreal. At the same time, I feel very disconnected with photography on the technical level. Photo making has never occurred to me as an inseparable subject. What really interests me is the process of composing. Composed and manipulated images and photographs always feel more truthful to me. Because personally it diminishes the claustrophobic factualness contained in those framed virtual reality. I would also like to incorporate paintings and drawings in this collective work. I think it will be interesting to see how painting and photography talk to each other.

I find both Siena and Colle as cities that are going through a magnificent change to fit themselves in a more modern and globalized setting. As many may object to such actions, I don’t see how any city may survive without it. It is inevitable. But for cities like Siena and Colle, there is always a struggle between its tradition and the globalization. They are indeed walking on a fine string. Nobody, however, can provide a perfect solution right now. It is this complexity of Siena and Colle that I want to express in this collective work, it maybe a utopian view of how Colle can embrace globalization without tearing down its tradition.

Spectatorship is often questioned and examined in contemporary art. Observation of a piece of artwork is less a focus now. While the raising of museums and exhibitions give the public more access to art pieces, it also takes away the time that an observer spends on each artwork. The contemporary art world seeks the large scale globalized exhibition and biennials. It is very much the trend right now. How Rugoff and Vischer talk about how stationary objects and tiny artworks draw the viewers’ attention for a closer examination, it is the same for all artworks. The honesty of the artwork itself and the spectatorship is shrinking as not only the art world but everything is booming and accelerating. This also raises questions further to the structure and the fundamental meaning of museums and the biennials, which is even more complex.

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Sept 16:  Second Reading Assignment:

While psychogeography strikes me as such a quirky yet beautiful perspective to examine the relationship between art and surroundings, situationist’s later involvement with political agenda is such a disappointment to me. Being political is not what concerns me. On the contrary, all art is political because art is cultural. Art contains and will always contain political elements, but to make art a sole representation of politics can take away the essential universality of art. One of the major reasons of psychogeography and unitary urbanism being so attractive is the universality that they both share.

De Certeau says, “every story is a travel story, a spatial practice…and any theoretical system that tries to measure this story will inevitably exclude as much as it reveals.” This idea to me, however, proves again in a different angle that all human emotions are collective memories. We are in an age that images are more powerful than ever. The virtual reality as described in Virilio’s article The Information Bomb created “phantom limb”. We don’t ever see what our eyes see anymore. Yet like drawing and sketching, walking really studies the objects, the space and the city. Because there is no better way to describe a city by walking in it, yet no matter how observant one can be, there will never be a comprehensive conclusion of a city. A city is collective, fragmented and self-regenerating. Like Walid Raad’s project “The Atlas Group”, this fictional archive forms a representation of collective traumatic memories. The focus is no longer merely about Lebanon but about the shared human emotions. Similar ideas have been examined by various artists such as Silvia Kolbolski, in her work After Hiroshima Mon Amour, she is aware of the parallel events that every nation shares in one way or another. Hiroshima event is not only a local event but also everything it meant to every nation.

Siena is also a very fragmented city. Within such as small city there are 17 contrade and all of them together contain the image of Siena. But at the same time since Siena is such a small small city that every family knows its neighbors for decades. I am never a insider but I can imagine the love and the tension cause by this specific relationship between the Sienese people.

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Sept 9, 2014: First Reading Response: 

Boundaries and identity have been a tension not only in the art world but also in every aspect of our life. Globalization no doubt played a major role in such controversy. The  rapid development of technology has also contributed to the accelerated hybridity of cultures and nationalities. Boundary and identity are such nostalgia ideas. It’s people longing for the simpler past and the homeostasis. Despite all the economical causes and all the brutal results, boundary is quite a poetic concept. As Carla Rinaldi beautifully puts in her book: “Boundaries are the places of encounter”.

Globalization, however, challenges the singularity of identity and nationalism. So as Thierry de Duve calls – “Glocalism”. He says that: “The word glocal implies the bridging of a hiatus from the particular to the general, a conceptual jump across a discontinuity formulated in geopolitical terms: the city, the world.”  There is a constant conflict contained in everyone of us that we want to be accepted but don’t want to be generalized. This is one of the major controversies created by globalization, yet it is the root of boundary.

While the idea of boundary itself stays neutral, the inequality caused by it can be problematic. Contemporary artists have focused on such issue. For instance, the Chinese artist Ou Ning and Cao Fei are cooperating a recent project called San Yuan Li. I can’t possibly describe it better than Karen Smith in her essay:

San Yuan Li was once a rural suburb of the city of Guangzhou until the rabid expansion of the metropolis finally brought the urban sprawl to its door. The bustling suburban community suddenly found itself sitting on prime land and courted by hungry real estate developers. In China, where land belongs to the State, communities like that of San Yuan Li usually have no defense against the forces of mass relocation. For some, a modern apartment in a newly constructed highrise block is attractive because of the basic amenities it promises. For others, it represents an isolated anonymity far from familiar environs.

This documentary recorded the constant fight between the government and the tenants in San Yuan Li. It’s like Nori’s description of slum residence. If there is even such violent rejection from one to his own kind. How tolerant are we to the other ethnic groups, other religions and other nationalities?

I have been always crossing geographic territories and loving and accepting different cultures were never a challenge to me. The only time that I felt a sense of strong rejection and violation toward my territory is right before I departed for USA 7 years ago. My mother sat down with me and took a long stare before she old me with caution and intense seriousness that except for the language, I also must dress, express and think like an American so that I can fit in. This is the first time I have been told by my people that I have to be another person, an alien. For me nationalities and languages do not form boundaries and territories but the individual itself is his own territory.

 

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Della was born in Hangzhou, China in 1991. She spent most of her high school years and college years in many states around USA. She went to Brandeis University in Massachusetts from 2010 to 2014. Art was never her consideration for her life career, but one drawing class in Brandeis changed her mind and she decided to change her major to studio art and art history in her junior year. She  worked as a studio assistant after her graduation for a short time.

Della’s main focus is oil painting but she is also deeply in love with drawings. Her art works are very personal. They are all pieces of her inner worlds. She is very inspired by German expressionism even though one might not see it directly in her art works. She loves to manipulate spaces. Composition is probably one of the most important elements in her paintings.

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