06/01/2017 Yan Xing : objectively examine creating history

Thief, 2015. Installation view

I received support from the Altos de Chavón School of Design for my residency in La Romana, Dominican Republic. This was my first residency in the Caribbean. As an artist who was born in East Asia and grew up in China, I found it to be a very special experience. The significance of my stay to me stems from my long-standing exploration of “Global Southernism” and “New Regional Politics.” I must admit that I was comparatively unfamiliar with the history and traditions of the Dominican Republic. My curiosity led me to conduct some research into Dominican folklore in advance. As an artist, I was separated from my own life experience, and the research I was conducting would not ultimately be presented in this place. My position as an onlooker allowed me to view history from a more objective standpoint. To put it another way, I could more objectively examine how other people’s history is created.

During my time there, I completed a number of important research projects. For over a month, I visited the major cities of the Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo left the most profound impression on me. It was there that I personally witnessed how colonial history influences a place as well as its regional diversity in a larger sense. I also visited the two campuses of the Altos de Chavón School of Design. Meetings with the school’s president and professors reminded me of my own art education experience. The similarities in particular were striking. In 2005, I enrolled as an undergraduate at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, which had just moved to a new campus about three hours away from the city of Chongqing. I spent four years at that campus, which had been built from scratch in the middle of a forest. I associated this place with a term I made up: “new nature.” Such nature possesses the shocking effect and intimacy bestowed by the primeval powers of the earth. But it also possesses the power of transformation, which led me to consider how we as individuals merge into our environments, either truly natural or imagined. This kind of “new nature” is like a transformation of the muscles of the body. As I interacted with the local students in La Romana, I wondered: are they imagining me as well, an artist from a distant place, China, who received a similar art education to theirs when he was their age?