In this part of the interview I asked Yi-Ting Wang about how is it like being a new parent and how she came to create Disembodied Posture in 2017. We also talked about the impact of COVID-19 and the artist’s reluctance in addressing social issues in her works, and finally Yi-Ting provided us with a peek into her life outside of the profession and some of her future plans in the upcoming year of 2022.
For the first part of the interview please follow the link.
Axel Wang: 當⼀名新⼿家長已經是⾜夠繁忙的⼀件事了, 更不要提同時您的⼯作還是藝術創作。您覺得孕育新⽣命有給您帶來什麼不⼀樣的視⻆嗎?
It’s hectic enough being a new parent, let alone working as an artist at the same time. Do you think giving birth to a newborn has granted you any different perspective?
Yi-Ting Wang: 這個問題對於現在的我來說似乎還是有點早，因為我還是身處於當下的狀態之中。生活作息以及工作勢必都因為新生兒的關係而有所調整，我也還正在學習如何安排創作和照顧小孩的平衡。生為一位女性，或許是因為天性使然或是生理影響心理，常常放心不下小孩，很難全心全意投入在工作狀態裡，必需不時地切換成照顧者的狀態，這大概是影響我最多的部分。但同時，觀察一個新生命從認識自己的手中開始到一點一滴認知這個世界的舉動，我彷彿也跟著他重新認識這個世界。
I’m guessing perhaps in a few years I would be able to answer this question properly. Lifestyle and working hours had to be adjusted, because of the newborn for obvious reasons, I’m still trying to learn of the balance — creating works while looking after an infant. As a female, I can only imagine this being natural, that you worry about your child ever so often to a degree that it’s sometimes difficult to concentrate on the works. But then to watch him growing up day by day, how he unearths everything around him, a lot of the times I felt like I was being brought back to a child-like state where, I got to see things through his eyes and rediscover the world once more.
I’m glad that I made the decision to give birth to a child, to have that experience for me as an individual, is also an incredibly valuable chapter. Almost like creating a new piece of artwork, only that the child demands more attention, patience and love. I wish one day I would be able to explore the world together with him or create works together even.
“I’m fascinated by the presence of natural materials, they never remain in the exact same state…”
AW: 提到新生，我們很難不提及死亡。綜觀您作為藝術家至今的職業生涯, 很大部分的作品都與植物有關聯，您的創作概念很多是圍繞著生死，尤其體現在「不存在的姿態 (2017-2018)」，是什麼啟發了您去探討死亡相關的議題從而進行創作呢?
Speaking of newborn, I think it’s inevitable that we bring up death. Throughout your career as an artist, nearly all your practices seem to entangle with plants, the concept of your artworks mainly revolves around the essence of life and death, it was well reflected in Disembodied Posture (2017-2018) in particular, what inspired you to create the piece?
When I started to create Disembodied Posture, I was just returning home to Taiwan trying to overcome another cultural shock, at the same time dealing with the loss of a family member. I was visiting a pine tree garden and by chance, I learnt that bonsai, traditionally a symbol of longevity, something so significant culturally, but with even the slightest wither, its value would diminish completely. I questioned whether life is the same, how do we define death and how do we define the state of death, as living individuals, what are the appropriate ways of respecting the dying lives and the already deceased. It’s a taboo sometimes, to talk about death in Asian societies, but through this medium of pine tree and its symbolic meaning behind, I hope this may in return open up the conversation and change the conventional perception to a certain degree.
I would like to touch upon the technical side of your works, it’s obvious that your creation has a strong bond with natural materials. What goes into consideration when you choose a particular material to work with?
Now that I thought of it, a majority of my works are fundamentally connected with the basis of time. I convey through natural media, which act as a carrier of time, as a reflection of the present, connecting the past and the future. I’m fascinated by the presence of natural materials, they never remain in the exact same state, on the contrary they are constantly transforming, I adapt to them, I adapt to the transformation, in order to create. I observe and I study their characteristics and learn of their personalities, like establishing communication, negotiation even, with the materials sometimes I felt, and the work eventually nurtured is like a visual investigation and presentation of this negotiation process.
Has the pandemic affected you in any ways?
I got to experiment with remote installation of an exhibition in France, initially I just thought it wasn’t possible, that this was totally beyond me. Fortunately and thanks to technology, there were a lot of online video calls and communications, the project was successfully completed in the end though I can’t help but feel a bit conflicted about the whole thing, despite the completion, I never got to see the actual exhibited work with my own eyes nor to experience the space, let alone directly communicating with the overseas institutions and artists, it’s a shame really.
The pandemic not only makes people feel alienated, but also reduces the opportunity for everyone to come in direct contact with artworks. 2D works may be somewhat relatively easier to translate into an online presentation whereas the experience aroused by an installation work simply cannot be replicated by digital medium, at least not for now. Especially for someone like me, whose works lean towards site-specific, I’m rather reserved even when it comes to VR because, when viewers experience the installation in person, it’s about the texture of the materials interacting with the space, that unique physical plus sensual experience of a site-specific installation situated in a distinctive space is lost on a digital medium. But then again if this is the reality it’s definitely something for me to take into account as well, how to touch or get closer to the viewers under the pandemic, or perhaps artwork can also act as some kind of hope, like a beacon for life after the pandemic.
AW: 在最近的一份關於全球暖化的IPCC (2021) 報告中有提到，人類面臨的環境威脅正在以前所未有的速度加劇。鑑於您很大一部分的作品都是與植物相關，作為一名藝術家您覺得您有責任讓大眾更加關注到這個現象嗎?
In a recent IPCC (2021) report which mainly examined the impact of climate change, the situation for humanity certainly looks direr than ever. Given that you tend to work with organic matters often, do you think as an artist you have a responsibility of raising awareness when it comes to climate change?
When it comes to the environmental crisis that human beings are facing at the moment, without a doubt I’m aware, and extremely conscious about it, nonetheless, a lot of what I create centre on discussions of conceptual topics like time, life, rhythm, energy and so on, frankly, I don’t particularly address ecological or environmental issues in my works. One of the main reasons is merely that this is already a fact apparent to the naked eye. Like reading a newspaper headline, it would be extremely difficult to avoid preconceptions for the viewers, once the viewers perceived the work to be environment-related, or any issue for the matter, they would step away from exploring in their head, or think about the underlying meaning or any deeper implications of this work placed right in front of them. Therefore I would prefer not to create any bodies of work as a response to the current affairs, sending such a blatantly obvious message. I believe that this is a responsibility that no one should shy away from anymore, and must do whatever they can to contribute towards the cause.
Outside of your profession, do you find time for other interests?
YW: 我常常將興趣和工作融為一起，像是過去有一段時間喜歡植物，所以以自然媒材創作的作品居多，也有 段時間喜愛拍照，便常常將影像融入繪畫裡頭。天生愛實驗的個性讓我很愛嘗試新的技法和研究新的材料， 這些大概都很像我的興趣但也同時是我的工作。
創作時間外，我也很愛下廚，我認為烹飪是個可以快速獲得短暫成就感的方法，有時我如果創作陷入膠著， 我會為自己精心準備一道料理，從思索食材開始，細細備料，或是研究比較同道料理不同的烹飪方式等，讓 我得以脫開創作瓶頸的焦慮，從料理中獲得暫時的滿足。除此之外，我也很愛看任何科幻類主題的書籍或電 影，尤其是反烏托邦的主題， George Orwell 的「1984」和「動物農莊」，Italo Calvino 的「看不見的城市」 ，Margaret Atwood 的「The Handmaid’s Tale」，電影「Arrival」、「Blade Runner」等等都會讓我反思當下 所處的環境也同時馳騁於想像的世界。
More often than not my interests tend to overlap with my works. For instance there was a period of time when I was particularly captivated by plants, as a result a lot of my works are based on natural media; I also remembered getting into photography and I found ways of incorporating them into my drawings. I love to experiment, with new techniques and materials, trial and error is a huge part of my creative process.
I’m awfully passionate about cooking. For me cooking is a quick way of achieving any sense of accomplishment. Whenever I’m stuck I have a habit of switching off and preparing myself a meal, from picking up the right ingredients, to studying different ways of cooking the same dish say for example. It’s just my way of shaking off that bottleneck anxiety — hugely satisfying too! Other than those I’m a massive sci-fi fan, especially the dystopian ones, literature like 1984 (1949) and Animal Farm (1945) by George Orwell, Invisible Cities (1972) by Italo Calvino, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood just to name a few, along with movies like Arrival (2016), Blade Runner (1982) and so on, they are all sensational sources of inspirations not just for work but to reflect on the current situation of the world that we are living in.
AW: 未來有什麼項目可以與我們分享嗎? 這麼多年的藝術創作經驗累積下來，有想做什麼新的嘗試嗎?
Any future projects that you could share with us? Anything new that you are hoping to experiment with?
YW: 近期在發展一項長期的跟海岸線有關的創作計劃。以界線不明的海岸線為主要敘事結構，線性時間軸為輔，探索不同區段的台灣海岸線影像，探討地理、自然環境與人類行爲下曖昧不明的界線關係，將可見與不可見的海岸線面貌重新透過想像縫合，形構成一個想像的島嶼，創造一個介於現實與想像之間; 限與無限之間; 自然與人工之間的新風景。這次的計畫會是一個跨領域的創作，結合錄像、繪畫、影像以及物件，並以裝置的方式呈現，算是一個對自己在各領域整合以及空間上的大挑戰。
I’m currently developing a long-term project related to the coastline of Taiwan. By employing the Taiwanese coastline as the main narrative — different regions’ under different time periods, it will be my attempt to explore this obscure boundary, this ambiguous relationship between human conduct or intervention, and a list of subjects like geography and nature’s commands, realised through a series of visible and invisible coastline imageries, in turn creating a new landscape of an imaginary utopia, that exists somewhere between the reality and the fantasy, the finite and the infinite, the natural and the artificial. I’m looking to adopt a variety of cross-disciplinary media in this project, like videos, drawings, images and objects, presenting them in a form of installation, it’s going to be an enormous personal challenge for me, merging all these media and fusing them coherently within a space.
The original interview was conducted in Chinese by Axel Wang on 4 December 2021.
Editor: Axel Wang
Design: Axel Wang
Photography: Courtesy of Yi-Ting Wang
Chinese to English Translation: Axel Wang