The story of people and land
Updated: Feb 13, 2019
Zora (Linyi) Pang, Book of 人 (ren，person); Book of 土 (tu，land), 2018
In 2018 exhibition Balawan: The story continues at ANU School of Art & Design Foyer Gallery. 10th-19th, Oct.
What is it about?
Books, are about recording, about stories, histories, and anticipation. We are writing these together - the stories of each of us and the story of our land. Our interaction with the sand is a metaphor of us living on our land. We all lived once, with incredible efforts, then disappeared; our marks distroyed and forgotten.
This work was inspired by my Balawan experience of being on a foreign land, warmly embraced by its generous people, culture and nature. This journey taught me about how to patiently care for our relationships with one another and with nature while bearing with differences and continuous negotiation. It is about understanding our fate. It is a bit of an existentialist position (?).
This work is not a report or an end result. It is a continuous conversation, and will be a continuous influence to my choices, my attitudes, my life. This first version contains all of me - my experiences, cultures, beliefs and confusions. I am looking forward to see its later versions.
Why Chinese characters?
Firstly, it is about my identity. During my creativity bottleneck, I was emotionally vulnerable and felt like writing some Chinese, so I can be spiritually back at home. Naturally, I turned the watercolour landscape into Chinese characters. Then, I started to move away from using pictographic characters when relating it to the landscape, to go against my conscious activity and to only read the shape of characters from the natural lines in the landscape. Finally, I went further to create a trans-cultural symbol where the meaning of characters went beyond the original meaning under a language system and returned the signified meaning to its environmental context – an empty and free symbol (the signifier). This thinking process laid the foundation of my final work.
The character person (人) in my work was extracted from the mountain range, while the land (土) was extracted from a shape I made with the dry leaves under an 1000-year-old tree. The pictorial meaning has been reversed - 人 became the land and 土 became something artificial. The characters' original meaning in the language remained, but by extracting the characters from the Balawan landscape, the meaning became liminal (beyond its original connotation). The emotion or meaning for me in writing it done is different from experienced by someone of other language backgrounds. None of us would understand the characters fully with its original and extended meanings, however, within the context of Balawan stories, we will be able to achieve the same connotation regardless of the familiarity to its signifier - opposite to our belief that it is very hard to make a difference, we are always changing our human history, our land and nature. The continuous and collaborative effort is the core in the shaping of our story.
Reading Notes, 14th Feb, 2019
"Stuart Hall argues that there are two kinds of identity: identity in being (which offers a sense of unity and commonality) and identity as becoming (or a process of identification, which shows the discontinuity in our identity formation). Identity is important, but it is a process of "imaginative rediscovery": he argues against the idea of identity as true or essential, emphasizing instead the ways in which cultural identities are subject to the continuous "play" of history, culture, and power. For Hall, identities of race or gender are not an unchanging essence, but a positioning, unstable points of suture within the discourses of history and culture."
(Anne D'alleva, Methods & Theories of Art History, 2nd, p76)