Water Tells 水之语
Water memory is the purported ability of water to retain a memory of substances previously dissolved in it even after an arbitrary number of serial dilutions.
2022年6月艺术家Nova Zheng个展“有山有水的地方”， 新南威尔士大学艺术空间
Simultaneously like and unlike everyone else, we all have strings of memories constantly folding in and onto each other. Sometimes we are so sure about who we are and where we came from, but most of the time we are kind of lost, lost in the calm air, lost in the waving sea. The memory of childhood is like a ship emerging from behind the sunset then suddenly fading into the mysterious fog.
Migrating from one part of the world to another, diaspora artists are continuing to express their diverse experiences of culture and identity using their own artforms. Artist Nova Zheng is one of them. Overlapping and collision are two strong feelings we get from Nova’s exhibition A Place of Land and Sea. It was her first solo show exhibit in the UNSW A&D Art Space on the 1st of June to the 12th of June 2022.
从世界的一个地方迁移到另一个地方，移民艺术家使用他们独特的艺术形式来表达对文化和身份的多样化体验，艺术家 Nova Zheng 便是其中之一。重叠与碰撞，是我们从Nova于 2022 年 6月在 UNSW A&D 艺术空间举办的首次个展《有山有水的地方》中得到的强烈感受。
This exhibition selects the artist’s photographic works and presents traditional photography through the form of projection and art installations to expand the 2D realm of still images beyond their frames. Walking into the exhibition is like entering into a non-existent dream world, that could temporarily connect us to the memories in a 3D space with mixed time. The artist used black and white prints and moving images to explore her cultural memories of childhood and the reconstruction of Chinese identity in the age of globalisation from the perspective of an Australian based Chinese artist. During Covid, these memories flash in our minds, far and near. This was restructured to be a new expression and explanation.
When I walked into the space, the first artwork that caught my eye was the silky white fabric flowing from the right corner and across the whole space to the left with rolling psychedelic slopes. The waving lights climbed on the fabric, which created a texture that looked as if there is water flowing through the rocks. I stood there, holding my breath, with the desire to find myself in the sea.
Communication / Observation / Reflection …
Yesterday / Today / Tomorrow …
Where I came from …
Who I am …
互动 观察 省思 ……
昨天 今天 明天 ……
注：Diaspora 有离散与移民双重含义，Diaspora Artist 可称为“离散艺术家”或“移民艺术家”，本文尊重艺术家意愿，对艺术家本人称谓使用“离散艺术家”，作者会在恰当的语境中变换使用两种称谓。
Nova used film that reflected off the wall, while allowing the light to get through the large film negatives freely. When audience walk pass without taking notice, they have already become immersed into the story. Hallucinogenic visual experience together with the clear image of Nova grandma’s garden wall, recalls all the great memory of our childhood, which waked our deep memory of where are we come from and leads us to reflect our cultural background.
Australia Based Female Diaspora Artist
Mountain Views 山之韵
The Mountain sat upon the Plain
In his tremendous Chair —
His observation omnifold,
His inquest, everywhere —
— Emily Dickinson[ E.Dickinson, The Mountain sat upon the Plain, Monadnock Website, Viewed 18 June 2022:<https://monadnock.net/dickinson/mountain.html>
Artistic practices were the impetus for communication, observation, and reflection. Through a tiny little projection screen on the wall, we could see Nova standing there burning the paper in a calm way. She was so restful relaxed and immersed in her own world. The audience must get very close to have a clear look. Life throws chaos at us on a regular basis, but visitors to the exhibition could find themselves throwing things out of their mind for the present to enjoy the peaceful moment with her when looking through the screen. Walking in time, memory of the past always looming ahead through the haze. By looking at the artwork, experiencing the temporary connection and emotion between the artist, the picture of the self-identification from blur to clear. The culture memory like thousands of puzzles trying to lock into each other to make a graphic map of a diaspora artists art exploration.
Installation artwork Imprinting is a multi-artform Archive of memory, using thermal paper, candle, matches and a single channel video to express. Nova used the burning mark on the thermal paper as an analogy of remnants of memory and used her performance of the paper burning to record the memory of happiness and pain. The process of burning took Nova more than a week or so to complete. We could see from the film that the artist indulged herself into the memory during this process, recalling and refreshing the past. Just like a printing machine, the thermal paper export from the screen to being scattered on the table and then dropped onto the ground.
The arrangement of the heat sensitive paper on the ground and the infinite extensibility of the weaving have become the most impressive part of the work. Just like the formation of my experience and memory in a discrete state, they exist in a non-linear shape, folded, entangled, and influenced each other, sometimes interlinked, sometimes disconnected, sometimes superimposed, and sometimes isolated. Nova weaved the paper like a fabric with a wave shape like the mountain and the sea in different lengths, like the memories distort others to create new pseudo-memory. The light in the exhibition space reflects on the black and white woven paper mat to create a unique map of memory. The old stories seem suspended on the horizon and slipped their limits. The image like a secret hoop shaping a formless impression. The artist made that up to let us feel standing out of our own story to self-reflect.
Past/ Present / Future …
Where I came from …
Who I am …
Australia Based Female Diaspora Artist
Diaspora artists often have the same immigration experience, who have migrated from one part of the world to another. Nova is one of them and she carries the culture imprint from the place she had lived for her art expression. To explain the roundness of the earth, artists were trying to mix the culture together, but found the sharpened tip of the compass needle direct them back to the culture which they or their family carried from the childhood. When we try to comprehend the possibility of crossing cultures, great dread may hold us back. Using alternative narratives to challenge and recreate the ideas and structures of the solidified culture memory shows the pioneer spirit in a soft way.
When Nova introduced her motivation of creating the artwork during artist talks. She has repeated many times that her works are all about diaspora, identity, and geography either from her individual memory, family memory or collective memory. Nova grew up in Beijing and lived in Canada for many years then shifted to Australia. All these migration experiences give her the power for her art practice. A place of land and sea gives the idea of identification of our geography landscape of her background, which remind me one of Dylan Thomas’s best-loved poems ‘Fern Hill’. In the poem, he revisits his childhood, using his visits to his aunt’s farm as the subject-matter.
Nova 在访谈中介绍她的创动机时多次重申，无论是个人记忆、家庭记忆还是集体记忆，她的作品都是关于移民、身份和地理的。 Nova在北京长大，在加拿大生活多年，后移居澳大利亚，所有这些移民经历都赋予了她艺术实践的力量。“有山有水的地方”引发了我们识别她个人背景地理景观的兴趣，这让我想起了诗人迪伦托马斯最杰出的诗歌之一“蕨山”中对山的描写，这首诗也是他以参观姑姑的农场为的童年记忆为引的。
Against the hard and pale blue evening sky
The mountain’s new-dropped summer snow is clear
Glistening in steadfast stillness: like transcendent
Clean pain sending on us a chill down here …[ poem from the prolific novelist and poet D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930).]
—– D. H. Lawrence, ‘Meeting among the Mountains’.
—– D. H. Lawrence，“望山”
Diaspora’s family memory or collective memory has become a potent subject in art. Like ‘godfather of multiculturalism’ Jamaican-born cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall claimed in the essay ‘Cultural identity and Diaspora’ that diasporas have one that is based on similarities and a unity which comes from belonging to a shared culture; and one that is based on an active process of identification
that responds to points of difference. Installation artwork Imprinting inspirate us to think back these memories to help us to identify ourselves to fit into the community.
而今移民的家庭记忆或集体记忆已成为有力的艺术主题，就像“多元文化教父”牙买加出生的文化理论家和社会学家 Stuart Hall 在《文化身份与移民》一文中提到的：“移民具有基于相似性和来自共同文化的统一性的身份，以及基于主动识别过程的响应的共同点。”装置艺术“印记”启发我们重温这些记忆，以帮助我们自我认知与省思， 从而更好的融入多元文化社区。
Forming Settling and Evolving 形成、沉淀与演变
When I die I shall not have died
Because I have not existed
In your mind perhaps, within the minds of others,
I have moved and been consumed by movement
—- Kathleen Tankersley[ Poet and Harlem Renaissance–era editor Kathleen Tankersley Young was born in rural West Texas on August 15, 1902.
H.Harlem,‘Because I Have Not Existed’ ,TAYLOR POETRY FOUNDATION, 19 June 2022
The artwork Imprinting has a very prominent attribute. The burning mark on the paper will slowly fade over time. The fading of the mark on thermal material is like the memories that are slowly weakening and changing. As time goes by, the marks will have different details, the artwork will not only change the appearance with the light but also with the time. Ink like black mark will gradually fade or even disappear just like how the stories and childhood memories will be forgotten. Deep thinking deconstructs bipolar notions of the homeland and living country and accept the inconsistencies. It also helps us to understand the fluidities of immigrant’s identities and celebrate life in diasporic third space.
Immigrant’s memories are evolving through a continuous play of history, culture, and power. Nova Zheng, not only an Australia based Chinese artist but also a female curator. Instead of talking about religious and political identify of diaspora in a hard way, her art language is very soft. Her art expression could be examined in different political and nationality contexts, since everyone has their childhood memories, and everyone has a land to remember. We should respect the multicultural background people from all over the world especially in Australia. This exhibition examines contemporary aspects of the identity construction of the diaspora from her own angle. Instead of transcultural confrontations the show brought the audience a peaceful space to acceptand, integrate and appreciate.
移民的记忆是随着历史、文化和权力的不断变化而演变的， Nova Zheng不仅是澳大利亚的华人艺术家，也是一位女性策展人，她的艺术语言没有硬性地谈论移民、宗教和政治身份，而是以非常柔和的描述她的记忆。这种艺术表达可以放在不同的政治和民族背景下进行审视，因为每个人都有童年的记忆，每个人都有自己思恋的土地。在澳大利亚的多元文化背景下，我们应该尊重来自世界各地的移民。本次展览从她自己的角度审视了当代语境下的移民身份，为观众带来了一个和平的空间来接受、融合和彼此欣赏。
A Place of Land and Sea addressed issues of a mix of experience and culture’s identity in conflicts by waking up the childhood memories. All these memories related to cultural practice and production which expressed the dislocation, displacement, and hybridity of a diaspora. With the lapse of time, all conflicts between cultures will be minimized and downplayed. The exhibition was Nova’s first art practice, which is powerful and influential. It used multi-media artform though through the self-identification and culture aspect in the contemporary context. Like the artist claimed on interview, this art practice could be an exemplary art piece for her art life, which is a milestone for herself as dual identity as female curator and artist. In the future she could expand from these original concepts using more artform to have deep conversations about different conceptualizations of the diaspora, diversities of history and cultural identity of immigrants.
Message Board 留言板
Her exhibition has opened a window of cultural memories for me, with metaphorical windows of the train and bamboo forests projected on the wall in parallel with the physical windows in the exhibition space. In the centre of the exhibition space, the twisted multi-media installation connects these experiences and memories under the light and shadow, facilitating a dialogue with time and space about the dual existence of “here” and “there”, “present” and “past”.
— Joyce Guo (Chinese emerging artist·Student of UNSW)
— Joyce Guo（中国新锐艺术家·新南威尔士大学学生）
Nova used her film to create a great scene recalls our memory.
— Abigail Moncrieff ( Curator · Professor of UNSW)
When I aware of some of the limitations of film, I am getting more and more interested in contemporary art and conceptual art.
— Nova Zheng( Curator · Artist)
The mountain lives in the heart of the water, the water dances in the dream of the mountain. With promise, life and death depend on each other. ……
— Aileen Moka ( Curator · Critic)