BY MILLY ZIETHEN
No one can deny the power of art to inspire collaboration, with people all over the world frequently coming together to create, regardless of their language or culture. Art connects us at a fundamental level, and offers a flexibility that few activities offer – you can do it wherever you want, whenever you want, and digital means maximise sharing potential. It’s no surprise then that we have digital artists from all over the world exhibiting at CuratorSpace’s Digital Art Exhibition as part of Leeds Digital Festival.
Chen Wang is a CuratorSpace artist, whose work ‘Utopia Process’ can be viewed at Platform and on Millennium Square’s Big Screen. Originally from China, Chen Wang currently lives and works in Rochester, New York. The young artist received a BA in Fine Art, specialising in painting, and went on to do a Masters degree in Fine Arts with Photography in 2017.
Chen Wang understands the conflict of gender more than most, growing up in a traditional family with a conventional binary view of gender. On moving to the big city with its amalgamation of world culture, she discovered her own personal understanding of gender and sexuality as a fluid and ever-changing construction. Through Wang’s art, he questions traditional gender identities and present a space to awaken a new sense of possibility in our societal constructions of sex, gender, and sexuality. As with many artists, Chen Wang uses her work to work through his past. Art offered her an opportunity to connect her own experience with larger social issues in different ways through performance and humour.
‘The universe that I like to express is both utopia and dystopia,’ explains Chen Wang. An oxymoron perhaps, but for Chen Wang aiming to illustrate these two extremes is a way to express her personal mythology by creating different personas and constructing a new environment that helps her redefine her identity. Chen Wang emphasises the importance of physically creating work, like drawings, costumes or little clay sculptures. For Chen Wang, a self-professed pusher of boundaries, her costume creations enable her to slip into different roles and characters.
In her work ‘Utopia Process’, a video projection that combines hand-made costume, drawings, animation, and performance, Chen Wang imagines a satirical space reflecting present-day society.
The abstract figure and natural forms within the video create a fantasy space that reflect multiple realities. Chen Wang uses bright colors and optimistic aesthetics to challenge the boundaries of the physical bod, where constructed biomorphic forms entangle and pulsate, representing gender, politics and sexuality.
“In my work [Utopia Process], the video is not specifically driven by linear storytelling, which opens up multiple possibilities for meaning and allows the audience the space to construct their own stories and insert their own desires into the scene. I invite the audience to add another layer that transforms and changes the space. The video creates the illusion of figures and spaces with which viewers can engage.” explains Chen Wang.
Chen Wang’s work poses fundamental questions about human identity. The artist herself questioned her identity for a long time, and continues to every day, she adds. Wang grew up in a traditional family with expectations to be married by a certain age and commit to a heterosexual relationship and family – this was the only acceptable possibility, she explains. When the artist moved to the United States seven years ago, Chen Wang describes how she became aware of the huge difference between Western and Eastern thinking about gender identity and expression of sexuality.
‘I have experienced more acceptance living in New York than I ever experienced growing up in China. I feel it took a long time for me to begin to realize what my identity is.’ she explains.
For Chen Wang it’s about creation – the artist comments the projects never stop and she always has a new project on the go.
Her current work-in-progress, entitled ‘Animal World’, is a time-based piece that combines drawing, video, 3D animation, handmade costumes and performance. Chen Wang is interested in exploring narratives that relate to her life experience with gender, identity and sexuality.