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Delirious, the Midnight Sun Is Gorgeous. (2012-2013)
Video documentation
Silkscreen print on fabric, video projection on fabric (8'36" loop), steel, book (title: The Description of a Whale)
First Year MFA Exhibition. 27/02/13-09/03/13. Rosenberg Gallery, New York
 
Perceived as the planning of writing a novel, the project is the terminal point of life for a narrative that will never be written. Through the re-imaging and re-imagining of archival materials documenting scenes set in Antarctica, this symbolically romantic land abstracts into an imaginary landscape, pure and mathematical in one’s mind. Fictitious stories are built, supported by speculations of what the unique and severe natural environment could physically and psychologically alter the human being. Madness and obsessions are induced by the sublime and mind-bending landscape. Maybe the gorgeous auroras (from the Latin word aurora, meaning ‘sunrise’) do mesmerize people and drive them delirious. In the video, through editing two Hollywood documentary films about Antarctic expeditions in the early 20th century (With Byrd at the South Pole, 1930 and The Secret Land: Operation Highjump, 1948) and writing the subtitles, a new narrative of an expedition to Neptune is fabricated. The commonality in form and content between the two original films raises questions about the nature of expedition, the nature of narrative, and the nature of the description or documentation of them. The most unimaginable and futuristic will become reality, then obsolete, and finally fiction.
 
   
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The Description of a Whale
   
In the book, the images repetitively display a gesture of whales surfacing from water, mostly spyhopping, a behavior motivated by curiosity and intention for interaction. In fact, taken during the explorer Richard Byrd's first and second Antarctica expeditions, the original photographs of breaching whales themselves record the moments of encountering between the whales and the human being. Before the white-out process, the original text was compiled from the index of the Collection Boxes at The Ohio State University Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program Register of the Papers of Admiral Richard E. Byrd. The text describes both the content and the material qualities of the archival footage related to Byrd’s Antarctic expeditions. Men looking into long fissures in the ground, crew digging snow under a plane, scratches and dirt on emulsion, punched-out numbers on tape, these details could exist continuously in one paragraph. The text provides a sense of context for the contemplation of the whales.
 
   
The e-book version is free here (PDF 1 MB); hard copies are on shelf in the fiction and poetry sections at the NYU Bookstore, and available online.
 
   
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Put the Cart Before the Horse (Project Initiation Statement, 2012 winter)

Last Wednesday morning, I went to Central Park for a carriage ride. According to my plan, my conversation with the driver would become my statement, but unfortunately, the driver said he had a sore throat and didn’t want to talk. The horse walked at the same pace for the whole 50 minutes. She must be familiar with the park; it was her all-day walk. There was lots of greenery in the park, I wondered whether she still paid attention to it when this part of the landscape of the City was probably what she liked, while she had been walking the same route and seeing the same scenes for years. For me, it was rather strange to see horses in this city, like seeing penguins. They didn’t fit into the background. I wished they could walk different paces and be wild again. Run down Fifth Avenue and leap into the ocean.
        Penguins aren’t as agile. They don’t leap into the ocean, but instead find low-lying places close to water and glide into it on their bellies. But then, it is their kingdom. Although I find this rather encouraging and consoling, I don’t feel like a penguin. I feel like a desert toad, or even a cactus. A desert toad doesn’t move until necessary, for hunting or avoiding predators. The problem is I neither hunt nor have predators. A desert toad does this to save water, I do this to save ice blocks, or, I merely feel slow.
        Maybe my work here yet is looking outside of the window everyday for a few hours. Everything is static. Only at night, the turning on and off of lights and the occasional appearances of human beings at their windows are the movements. Disregarding all the structures that are housing people, it’s fun to imagine them scattered in space without an awareness of height. Standing in a hotel room on the 98th floor feels just the same as standing on the ground. And going from A to B isn’t A to B, but going down the building first and up another later. At night, the farther the lights are, the more they look blinking, like stars. If all the lights were off, none of the buildings would be visible. It would be total blackness in front of me, a total blankness and total unknown. And what if all the stars were off? Not a big difference, there was already too little in the sky I could see.
        Here, for four months, perpetual daylight shines upon the total whiteness, another form of blankness. You don’t see any thing but a color, a vast white. The distinction between background and foreground vanishes, and it’s easy to lose one’s sense of distance and location. The background is no longer material but a color. Everything becomes graphic and slightly ridiculous. It creates a horror similar to screaming that is silent. The environment becomes mathematical; people feel they are having an experience in virtual space, where their body can’t be hurt. It is so unreal that it can hardly be taken seriously. Frostbites, numbness, vertigo, hunger, they only work as nitrous oxide and lead to psychotic laugher that can last as long as the perpetually hanging sun.
        With this air of self-indulgence, the grand journey starts. The sun doesn’t set, and people quickly lose track of the passage of time and forget the division of days. They are inexplicably agitated and stay up as much as their body can withstand. Memory loss and distortion follows. It’s easy to be infatuated in one thing and turn it into a hobby. Accordingly, people take on different jobs. Some become radio operators transmitting signals to families of seals laying in front of them; some become obsessive land surveyors carrying a tripod and disappear into the distance step by step; some become ice block huggers; some become full-time whale observers. People are engaged in separate things within the same field, yet nobody talks to one another. They could be so close as back to back, but they are so far as coast to coast. It looks like a silent revelry or collective farce. They are true individualists.
        Ideal workers most of these people would be considered. With a positive attitude, without distractions, they work. There is also a small portion of non-workers. Some choose to hibernate and wake up as a set of skin-covered skeletons. Some choose to be frozen underground and perhaps awoken when discovered by future explorers, or when everything melts away.
        Oh I remember that evening, such a beautiful woman on the subway distracted me from drowsiness. There is no woman here. No sex, no posterity, destined eternal death. Dogs, airplanes, bays, mountains, people tend to give everything a female name. But not long after, these repeatedly used names lose their symbolic reference to the feminine. No sex, no posterity, destined eternal death. They are true individualists.
        With many activities happening under the sun, it is always a prosperous scenery. Whatever not white is alien to this land. For this reason, people are conspicuous against the background, and gradually they start to notice how each posture of their body is a posture. They don’t exactly see themselves as in mirrors, but they know how their body would look like against the white ground. This mental mirror is omnipresent all the time, so people are constantly seeing themselves. Not only do they individually develop a whole set of self-satisfying postures, but they also create a complete mirroring imagery of themselves, their virtual company. In this situation, I am not certain whether they are true individualists. They are, because they are narcissistic and only need a virtual company that is essentially themselves; they are not, because they have a company.
        Walking out from the Rubin Museum, I thought I would see no cityscape, but the Himalayas, but in fact, I loved walking on the damp sidewalk after rain at night. I could see the city in its reflections without raising my head. What I love is no longer the rain, but the damp sidewalk after the rain. I am a traitor. New York is different from Tibet, and Tibet is different from Antarctica. I might not want to go to Tibet or Antarctica, but I would listen to the stories from people who did.
        “No downtown bound train stopping at 8th St, please take an uptown train to Union Square and transfer to a downtown bound train,” says the loudspeaker.
        “Sorry I swiped in on the other side. Can you let me in?”
        “Orr”
        “What?”
        “Tro”
        “Cross?”
        “The gro.”
        “I Go?”
        “The grorr!”
        “What did you say?”
        “I said the dorr!!”
        “Oh, the door! Thanks.”
        Fuck me.
        Okay, let me listen to the old busking man playing his guitar for a bit.

 
   
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