Signal and Relay, Longli, Guizhou, China, 2017. Local bricks, mortar, mirror, grout, stones, 36 x 3 x 4'.
Laura Boles Faw
19 September 2017
Project Statement: Second Longli International New Media Art Season
When I was invited to participate in the Second Longli International New Media Art Season, I started to research Longli and immediately became intrigued by the rich cultural history of this place. However, trying to comprehend a place through research alone is never adequate. Upon arrival here, those flattened images became a beautifully expansive and nuanced reality, one that I know will continue to unfold for me in the coming days.
Within my work, I often investigate the sculptural and spatial realms and am intrigued by the dynamism and play between structures in the built and natural environments. Therefore, having the opportunity to work in this particular location of natural beauty and within a historic town is a gift.
As an artist coming here from the West, I have thought about the ways we make connections in the world and broaden our understanding through artistic and cultural exchange. In my own work, I attempt to make connections by compressing contemporary and historical sources from different times and places. For this project in Longli, I have sought to again mash-up cultural influence in an attempt to create new understandings. Several years ago, I was made aware of a particular type of wall, sometimes called a “serpentine” wall, that is thought to have originally been built in England by Dutch engineers (and was later used by Thomas Jefferson in the United States). The wall is curvilinear, making it strong while at the same time using a minimum number of bricks. It is not just practical though and is beautiful in its meandering quality. This wall is also usually built on a trajectory from east to west which I found to be of significance for this project.
Longli was built as a fortressed city, its outer wall protecting the population within. The wall, as it stands today, is a majestic structure, signaling strength but it is no longer needed to protect the city. So for me, the form of the serpentine wall feels symbolic in this location. It is not about building a wall for protection, to keep someone out or someone in. Here it becomes a sculpture, an object of contemplation and of self-reflection.
Wandering through Longli, I noticed the many dragon designs on the cobblestone streets. The dragon’s serpent-like body is suggestive of the winding Long Xi River (meaning ‘river of the dragon’) and so the sculptural wall is being located along its banks, near the north side of the Red Army Bridge. The sculpture, constructed of brick, meanders and has a stepped elevation to signify the tail of the dragon. On the south side that faces the river, the bricks will be exposed. On the north facing side, along a cobblestone path, the wall will be covered in a mirrored mosaic, the design of which is inspired by the many cobblestone streets within and around the town of Longli. I am interested in how the history of those streets reflects its citizens and its past, and is also a place upon which new histories are made. The cobblestone patterns on the streets, recreated in mirror and turned upright, will literally reflect the contemporary moment within such a rich historical and ecological context.
[Interview from http://artlongli.com/portal/article/index/id/104/cid/3.html]