There was once a college. It was called Alfred State. And on the day of September the 25th, an artist named Wenhua Shi’s gallery, Night Song, opened in this college. His artwork was interactive. His artwork took more than a glance to fully take in. It would certainly not be forgotten any time soon by those who visited.
One of the pieces on display in Night Song was entitled “Descending a Staircase”. As it was a video, it would be classified as a time-based piece; as in, one had to stand and watch for more than a few seconds to be able to see the whole thing. Depicted in the over 3-minute film was a woman, descending some stairs in a reference towards Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”. The striking part of the piece was not particularly what happened in the film, but how it was depicted—the numerous after-images that followed moving objects were what gave the piece its distinction. A student in the DMA program at Alfred State could connect this piece into their work; the idea one could take from it would be that even if the subject of the piece isn’t original, depicting it in a new way can give it a life of its own.
Another piece Wenhua Shi showed was another digital piece- “Singing to the Sky”. Although this one was also generated digitally, and was also time-based, it was definitely differentiated from “Descending a Staircase” in a big regard- it was interactive. A microphone hooked up to the computer would read sound input, and with it generated Chinese characters, English characters, and sound waves. If the sound waves touched the characters, the characters would fly around. This piece provided not only an interesting concept, but also something that the gallery-goers could have fun playing around with. What could be taken away from “Singing to the Sky” would be that one doesn’t have to stick to the traditional mediums to create something new- one can even use computers or sound to create art.
One last piece shown in the Llewellyn Gallery was called “Fish’s Night Song”, from which the gallery took its name. This was the centerpiece of the gallery, and was time based like the others, as its lights flashed on and off. The blue light flashing on and off would be eye-catching enough to draw outsiders into the gallery. “Night Song”, a wall-mounted sculpture, was very clearly visible in the dark, and the abstract figure made it certainly a unique piece. Learning how to incorporate rhythm and abstract figures into art is certainly something a DMA student should know, of course.
So, in essence, the Night Song gallery could teach DMA students more than a few things- that rehashing old ideas can create something new, that one doesn’t have to use standard mediums to create something new, and that rhythm and abstract shapes can be powerful tools. Art pieces that take more than a few seconds to take in shouldn’t be dismissed just because they take a little while to process—in fact, they can sometimes work a lot better than static works of art.