fig. 61: faces, heart, seeking
Mixed media installation, 1994
© Rene Yung

Statement · Biography · Bibliography

Artist Statement
Rene Yung

My work is about being, memory and place. As an immigrant to the United States who grew up in the hybrid and transitory environment of colonial Hong Kong, I am particularly interested in the complexities of cultural identity. I seek to voice the stories of my culture from the inside - the ethos, sensibilities and unspoken details of daily living which are often difficult to discern from the outside - as well as touch on the universals between cultures. Through my work I try to connect past and present, memory and idea, the personal and the universal, and find a home in this shifting world.

Parallel these concerns, my recent work has focused on developing a visual and structural language which comes from and speaks across my different cultural sources. In this language I am looking for the poetry that connects word, object, place, sound and time, in the way that the Chinese language combines concise tonal units of sound and meaning into a fluid whole. I am interested in building a textuality of materials, ideas and spaces, to convey the idea as well as the emotions of a piece.

I work most often in installation form. I like the way it allows discourse across categories and boundaries in a way similar to life experiences, and it provides a platform from which I can connect my roots in Chinese lyrical-narrative sensibilities with my interest in Western conceptual thinking.

fig. 62: seeking
Mixed media, Venice Biennale, 1995
© Rene Yung

fig. 63: seeking (detail)
Mixed media, Venice Biennale, 1995
© Rene Yung

The Opacity of Dreams (1996) uses layered language - literally and figuratively - to examine the relationships between the personal, political and cultural influences on the post - colonial individual in the context of the transition of Hong Kong, my birthplace, from British colony to Chinese rule. The installation seeking, shown at the 1995 Venice Biennale, uses newspaper classified ads to examine the private longings behind the public language of the mass media. A work in progress, Cauldron, juxtaposes different narratives via several series of drawings and sculptural elements portraying cultural staple foods, to comment on the bifurcation of the sources of physical and spiritual nourishment for the Asian immigrant to the West.

Growing up in the shadow of Confucian teachings, I am keenly aware of the history of women in my root culture, and I am dedicated to voicing the blended story that comes from personal experience, family anecdotes and historical examples. The paired installations Moral Tales (1992) and Proper Dreams (in progress), relate the experience of growing up female in transitional Chinese culture, and vessel (1993) deals with the historical practice of breast binding.

While installations in art venues allow a certain kind of aesthetic experimentation and control, I have found it important to bring the dialogue on belonging and identity to community and public art projects. Since 1992 I have worked with youth, and in particular the elderly, from diverse communities. I find the direct connection to these individuals' lives and stories both empowering and humbling, and the exposure to the process of civic space planning and implementation a sobering reality-check and reminder of the necessity of dreaming-imagination.

Statement · Biography · Bibliography


Back to Artist's List

All text © Rene Yung.