There is no doubt that the COVID-19 changed the structure of the world and everyone was thinking about what they should do during the pandemic period. When healthcare workers and essential workers were staying on the frontline, artist Xianglong Li was considering how to contribute his effort to the community. After the lockdown, he and his colleagues launched the exhibition Stay Home, Make Your Contribution To The Society to encourage people to reconsider the personal and political conflicts that happened in COVID-19.
Xianglong, could you please tell us why you want to curate the exhibition Stay Home, Make Your Contribution To The Society?
The idea popped up when New York City was in lockdown. We were asked to stay at home and Trump’s government advocated the virus was from China. As a Chinese artist who lives in Brooklyn, I felt not only solitude but angry as well. I think the government should ask people to be strong together instead of blaming each other. In addition, I saw some people ignore others’ efforts and insist on going outside. It made me realize that staying at home was the real respect to healthcare workers and other frontline essential workers. This exhibition represents my respect for these people.
You use ironic criticism in this exhibition. Could you please tell us something about this? What do you want to represent?
Chinese is a very complicated and interesting language. I used couplets to demonstrate my thesis in the collection. Different people will have different comprehension about my couplets. From my personal perspective, I hope my work would warn people to avoid traveling and deduce outdoor activities during the pandemic period.
Your work Learning Chinese with XiangLong, A Collection of Chinese idioms was different from Stay Home, Make Your Contribution To The Society. Could you please tell us what Learning Chinese with XiangLong, A Collection of Chinese idioms talks about?
This new exploration with digital art can be related to my experience as an international student here in America since 2019. I have seen an abundant amount of mistranslation between English and Chinese here. These mistranslations can lead to significant misunderstanding and misconception. For example, my first English tattoo was “be a nice man.” I don’t know why, but every time I show this tattoo to my Western friends, they always laugh, or some menus in the Chinatown have a dish called “Ants climbing a tree,” which is an utterly bizarre translation to my friends whose first language is not Chinese. So I decided to do a series of Learning Chinese videos with animation to teach Western people to understand and use these Chinese words correctly. In a way, this series is me paying homage to my culture or maybe just me remembering how beautiful the language of my country is. Furthermore, I integrate GIFs, 3D Model Materials and texts in these short clips and try to explain some brainwashed cultures in our modern society. The audience is taught by the teaching method of spoon-feeding with visual and auditory scenes and “I” was the teacher to translate Chinese idioms into precise English, But actually, the translation is just what I want to show to the students.
Some people think your work reflects the influence of the phenomenon of pan-entertainment on cultural transmission. Do you agree or disagree?
Yes, I agree. I create my work with pop culture, animation, and social events. With diverse elements, I wish my work not only has an entertainment purpose but social responsibility purpose as well. I believe Generation Z has more power and vision to change the world.