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Art & Life with Shan Wu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shan Wu.

Shan, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born in Taipei, Taiwan. Ever since I learned how to bike in Middle school, I started biking around the city. I love wandering around Taipei at midnight and exploring different places. New things excite me. The tranquility and the breeze clear my mind. Sometimes, I would bike for hours and think about things that upset me, then I would slowly get better.

My parents are always very supportive, perhaps they knew they couldn’t stop me either way. My Dad always says “be happy, be healthy” when I am working too hard and putting on a frowny face. My Mom never wants me to get first place – she wants me to become a good person instead of a so-called “successful person”. I am also influenced by my Dad’s enthusiasm in ceramics and my Mom’s dedication to drawing.

I studied 3D animation in college. Working in 3D has allowed me to build worlds and stories completely out of my imagination while being practical with timelines and my technical skills. After graduating from college, I fell in love with photography. I strove to find something on the spectrum between animation and live action. I pursued my MFA study at Calarts in the film and video program and an integrated media program. At Calarts, I continually expand my practice to video installation, experimental film, sculptures, and conceptual art.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My inspiration comes to me in daily life. I revisit memories of personal experiences often—certain emotions, visual cues, forms, and subjects that haunt me. I consolidate, transform, and decipher the code that inherently connects to culture and politics. Subjects have led me to investigate gender and cultural identity, family dynamics, sexuality, nationality, power dynamics, postcolonial theory, feminist theory, and the usage of language. I question the root of my emotions and dissociation with relationships in “Yellow Mountain”, a fictional story of a woman struggling with the embarrassment caused by her sexual desire while grappling with a new language. I question physical and physiological space in “Lookover”, an animated live-action film in which mountains move like waves. I question the constitution of a nation in “Memories of Taiwan”, in which a series of sculptural objects featuring the flag of Taiwan (Republic of China) are being censored, erased, and dragged down with hanging “Chinese knots”. “Memories of Taiwan” reflects on Taiwan’s identity under oppression from the Nationalist Chinese government. Expired food that I found in my parents’ home led me to question consumerism. I made “Bardo”, a performance-installation piece in which a funeral for expired food is held. To question is the most important part of living in modern society. One needs to learn to identify the existing cultural constructs and the multi-layered cause of every event.

I work with humor and ambiguity to stir curiosity from spectators. Both distorted daily objects and a poetic image can leave traces and balances on the edge of recognition and alienation. Meanings emerge from the slice in between. An installation engages the participant with their correlation. A story that is relevant connects to one’s own experience. The form follows the content. Working with film, photography, sculpture, and installation, I am often looking for avenues of the unexpected. An ironic twist to images or things you might expect. Provoking a participant to new and perhaps unexplored territories.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
I’m practicing being an artist more professionally and treating being an artist like having a fulltime job. That means being punctual and reliable while working with others, being practical with time and finances while working on projects, and being strategic with the outcome of my work.

I’m making a spreadsheet with all the deadlines and information for grants, residencies, and awards for me to keep track of the opportunities that will support me financially and artistically. It takes time and effort to make money, like any other job.

This is what I am practicing. I’ll let you know if this works.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
You can check out my work at “shan-wu.com” and follow “shanwuwuwu” on Instagram.
For my curatorial practice please follow Taiwan Video Club on Facebook and Instagram.
I am open to collaboration and meeting other artists. Feel free to contact me at shanwuwuwu@gmail.com.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Drew Cavicchi, Shan Wu

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