This is an analog drawing performance designed as my final project for Drawing on Everything class and it took place in Museum of Moving Image (MoMI) in Brooklyn.
About Drawing on Everything
In the first class, Shantell Martin, our teacher told us "This class is not about Drawing! If you only have learned drawing skills from this class, you will get a big fail". "Hahahaha!!" We started laughing. "If you are not confident about your drawing technic and wanted to get better on it by taking this class, this class might not be the choice for you." She kept saying and her face was getting serious. "Have you ever thought about an interesting phenomenon that some people keep saying 'I don't know how to draw stuff, at all.' Well, I think they just selectively ignored the fact that they can draw when they were 5 years old." When I heard this, I was thinking "Hahaha, good point, this is so true, and she is a thinker for sure."
"It's a class about asking yourself and your soul about many key questions, like 'WHO ARE YOU?'; 'ARE YOU YOU?'; 'YOU ARE YOU' and even more. After got these questions have been asked and answered, you will find your own way to express yourself freely and confidently. This statement totally blew my mind, I thought this is what I have always been doing while I am writing calligraphy!!! This is the way you get a better understanding about yourself and surroundings around you, which is the only way to get inner calm and peace.
When we were born, we were all a piece of blank paper. We had the guts to do everything we can do. Drawing is one of them. Drawing is a gift that the nature gives us, not equally well, but like eat and sleep, you definitely know how to draw. When you are saying, "I do not know how to draw!" You are actually assuming I have to draw something as good as Mona Lisa to count as "drawing", otherwise it is crap. What is preventing you from drawing? Yourself. Why you feel in that way? Since we are not blank paper anymore after growing up, and all the stuff's been written on you are blinding you from truly and seriously asking yourself these question: "WHO ARE YOU?", "ARE YOU YOU?" and "YOU ARE YOU!".
A piece of blank paper is a perfect NOTHINGNESS exists. It has the largest space for what it could be. The thinking of NOTHINGNESS has huge possibility and potential in design and any creative practicing. In Tao Te Ching, Laozi said:
三 十 辐 ， 共 一 毂 ， 当 其 无 ， 有 车 之 用 。Thirty spokes join in one hub, in its emptiness, there is the function of a vehicle
埏 埴 以 为 器 ， 当 其 无 ， 有 器 之 用 。Mix clay to create a container, in its emptiness, there is the function of a container
凿 户 牖 以 为 室 ， 当 其 无 ， 有 室 之 用 。Cut open doors and windows to create a room, in its emptiness, there is the function of a room
故 有 之 以 为 利 ， 无 之 以 为 用 。Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit, that which is empty is used to create functionality
I've been always thinking about this idea and it's become my philosophical foundation while I am designing. How to leave more nothingness in your design for exploring by user? How to lead user going through four stages in front of the nothingness you made: curious, expecting, surprising and reflecting. Only the nothingness that could lead user finishing all these four stages pays off.
Background and Inspiration
I started writing Chinese calligraphy since I was a kid. It teaches me how to keep peace and listen to the true voice inside me without the affect and disruption from inside and outside of me. I keep getting a better understanding about Chinese traditional philosophy from practicing calligraphy too. How to keep Chi (an invisible energy exists around us, everywhere) moving correctly to generate beauty depends on whether I could behave myself from my mind to the medium (in this case, my hand) that I interact with surroundings, to affect surroundings (other objects, animal and human beings, even the universe).
The movement recorded on the paper is exactly what my mind's going through (it is the same way when musician is composing a song within different moods). This mechanic works great especially when I felt frustrated or sad. I can feel I am spreading all the negative energy out from mind to my hand and visualized it as strokes on paper, in which as a way to balance my mind back to a peaceful state, which reflects the Yin-yang Theory which is all about the converting and changing of energy.
Moreover, how to express the idea of Nothingness and Exists and the transforming between them is another concern in my project.
Eventually, since it would be a performance, I was thinking how to deliver the principle and experience of Yin-yang Theory and the principle of Nothingness and Exist in a more tangible and intriguing way to audience and integrate this concern into a performance that could lead audience's experience get through four stages: curious, expecting, surprising, and reflecting.
Design the Performance
Materials I need: water, starch, Chinese rice paper, regular paper, Chinese brush pen, and iodine.
The most recognized image about Yin-yang Theory is the black and white circle sign of it. As you know that Chinese calligraphy is a black and white aesthetic world too. I was thinking to convert the image from white to black to reflect the basic impression of Yin-yang theory.
I've learned an interesting experiment since I was in elementary school. Starch (white) + iodine = starch turns to black. While developing my final performance, I realized that this is perfect for performance. Since the audience barely could know what I am writing and drawing in the first place, and later they will surprisingly see transform the image out in a moment when I am spaying iodine onto the paper like a magician.
In the first place I was thinking drawing on a large scale, however, as the limited space in MoMI, I ended up with drawing on small pieces instead and give them as gifts to all the audiences. The most exciting and out of expected fact is that all my drawing had been claimed by visitors. They loved what I drawn and the performance :)