Fue Yang, Synchronous, 2017
“Before all else, the foundation of my identities (artist, son, citizen) refers back to my status as a first-generation immigrant . . . “
Lives and works in Minneapolis
Mentor: Pao Houa Her
Before all else, the foundation of my identities (artist, son, citizen) refers back to my status as a first-generation immigrant, as a child of diaspora and a target of Western imperialism. How I read the world and how the world reads me is embedded in this history. Although my art may not make explicit reference to these ideas, my practice can be understood to exist within this context.
My work invites direct tactile and physical interaction. In the past, my materials have included batik fabric, silk, snow, and, most predominantly, the human body. In centralizing my practice through physical interactions, I am able to draw attention to the body and its peripheral relationship with the digital. As I begin exploring and embracing the screen as a platform, I must confront new questions: Where is the presence of the hand of the artist? How is time contextualized in digital space? And perhaps most pressing, what are our relationships with screens and what implications arise from them?
Many of these conversations involve my preconceptions of how technology enables detachment. Computers are logical. Computers are impartial. Computers are callous. This precision produces a system that is cold, unsympathetic, and inhuman. To redress this anxiety, I imbue my work with oversentimentality, drawing inspiration from the language and pathos of David Wojnarowicz’s art: “If I could open up your body and slip inside your skin and look out your eyes and forever have my lips fused with yours I would. It makes me weep to feel the history of your flesh beneath my hands in a time of so much loss.” This empathy and desire to connect two orbiting bodies is a central theme in my art.
Synchronous is an interactive project that encourages participants to breathe together in tandem. It consists of two desk stations placed equidistant from one another in the gallery’s hallway. Each station consists of a chair, a monitor with a webcam, and a wind sensor. When a participant sits at one of the desks, the monitor prompts the user to breathe. At the other desk, another participant has received the same prompt. When the user’s breathing pattern aligns with the newfound partner’s, the webcam reveals the image of the participants to each other. The two participants are joined in a temporary union.
Synchronous is informed by website chat rooms such as Chatroulette and Omegle—platforms that connect random strangers in conversation, allowing either party to disconnect at any time, preserving anonymity and physical distance. By removing the element of language from this mediated connection, the conditions of this project force participants to engage viscerally, highlighting physiological and mental responses that result from deep breaths, such as slower heart rate, decreased metabolism, and decreased stress levels. The participants’ union also requires empathy: their connection is inextricably linked to the knowledge that the same physical responses are occurring in the random partner.
Through the universal, human act of breathing, Synchronous encourages a connection that may be temporary, but it is also peaceful, honest, and intimate.
Fue Yang is a first generation Hmong immigrant and artist born in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand and raised in Minneapolis. Yang earned his BFA in Web and Multimedia Environments from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2015. His work includes drawings, paintings, mixed media, and digital media and draws upon his experiences as an Asian American. Through his explorations in mark making, line-weight and delineation of forms, his work touches upon the central idea of narrative and the significance of stories. His web work uses Internet not as a window, but as a vehicle to tell his stories, and the stories of his people. Yang spends much of his free time looking up at the sky in his home state of Minnesota.