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Artist Q&A: Yao Qingmei, Sanszu Ding and It's Patterns, Whitechapel Gallery, 2020

Artist Q&A: Yao Qingmei

Category: Artists' Film International — Published: 3 Jun 2020

In celebration of her online screening of Sanzu Ding and Its Patterns, we spoke with artist Yao Qingmei about her recent projects, the search for new perspectives and finding solace in all things DIY.

Where are you from and how did you become interested in moving image work?

I’m from Wenzhou, China. I now live and work between Wenzhou and Paris. My first experience with moving image was as documentation of performance art, but later I became interested in moving image as a medium of its own.

How and what inspired the work?

In 2012, I made a three-legged ding (Sanzu Ding) and, naturally, thought of decorating it with some sort of pattern. The motif of a scythe and hammer is very straightforward, because our bodies are immersed in its symbolism. However, if you transplant it into a neolithic context, perhaps we could achieve some distance to it, or interpret it from a different perspective.

What inspired/influenced you to make Sanzu Ding?

Archaeological documentaries and time-travel sci-fi movies.

Where does the work fit into your wider practice and concerns?

My work is deep-rooted in a critical reaction into the formulation of political and social questions, exploring how symbolic gestures gain or lose power through forms of appropriation and displacement. Humor plays an important role in my work, using the poetics of comedy to expose the absurdity of a particular issue.

How is the artist finding the current situation of being home and how this is affecting their practice:

I live in my studio. In this period, I try to be creative with readily available materials around me, as well as try to finish editing some videos from before, and writing. I have more free time and therefore more time to think.

During the current climate, how are you maintaining your art practice from home or in post-lockdown conditions?

Because of social-distancing and the pandemic that made it necessary, more collaborative projects became more difficult. As a result, I’m seeking more autonomous media and approaches to be creative.

What are you exploring/experimenting with during this time?

I became interested in DIY products and online tutorials. For example, how do you sprout pepper or lemon seeds bought at the supermarket? How do you refurbish found furniture? How do you make cloth masks? How do you make tofu? How do you design a rooftop/vertical farm?

Para/Site is a non-profit organisation which produces, exhibits and publishes both local and international artists projects. Founded in 1996 and spread across 2 two sites, it is one of the leading independent art spaces in Hong Kong and the region. Artists’ Film International (AFI) is a partnership of 20 international organisations that celebrates moving image. Partners are: Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, Texas, USA; Belgrade Cultural Centre, Belgrade, Serbia; Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden; CAC, Vilnius, Lithuania; Centre for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan (CCAA), Kabul, Afghanistan; Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland; Fundación PROA, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Galleria D’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo, Italy; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey; Friends of Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; KWM artcentre, Beijing, China; Mohammad and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh Foundation, Amman, Jordan; Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, Poland; Video-Forum of Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.), Berlin, German; Para Site, Hong Kong; Project 88, Mumbai, India; Tromsø Kunstforening, Tromsø, Norway; Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK.


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