BODY OF ABJECTION

In her artistic trajectory, Dan Yang’s works trace themes of ancient ancestry, spiritual transformation, and all that is uncanny. Through installations and objects, the Chinese multidisciplinary artist explores her mythic visions of the otherness of human bodies subjected to natural cycles that climax in apocalyptic decimation.

Can you share a bit about your artistic background and how you found your way into multidisciplinary art, including ceramics, installation, painting, and photography? 

I was originally born and raised in China and then moved to Montreal, Canada for university. Right now, I’m doing an exchange study of Fine Art at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in Germany. My background was a bit complicated, haha… I have been painting and drawing since I was a kid in China and had spent one year at an Art Academy in China. Because I didn’t really enjoy the very traditional and unfree way of how Fine Art was taught in China, I switched to film studies when I moved to Montreal. And after completing a BFA in Film Studies, I went back to art again and started my second degree at the Art Studio at Concordia University. My multidisciplinary practice originated from the different classes I took, but I also love to do different things instead of just focusing on one medium or material. I think one idea is always worth being developed or expanded in other fields. During my studies, I always focused on ceramics and sculptures, and then during a 4-month academic summer break without any tools like kilns, I’ll be doing photography instead.

Your work frequently explores the notion of the body. What draws you to this theme, and how do you aim to subvert or challenge perceptions of viscerality through your art? 

My first exploration of the theme started during painting class, actually. It was during the pandemic, and I created a series of paintings (Nutrients Series, 2020) that reflects the fear of our bodies, depression, anxiety, as well as the emptiness we’ve gone through. Most of my works visually deal with weird bodies, but I also like to evoke the reception of the body by the material I use. For instance, using ceramic or clay to create skeletal beings as if they were alive, or using bronze and mixed media to create dehumanized babies that evoke feelings of disgust.

In your ceramic and installation work, you engage with the theme of “the otherness” of the body. Could you elaborate on the conceptual and stylistic elements you bring into these pieces? 

Yes, what the “otherness” of the body means to me is the body of abjection, of the undergoing metamorphosis that disturbs the body, identity, and the order of nature and organism. As each organism undergoes a series of metamorphoses during its life cycle, returning to its origin, dying, and being reborn as something new. It is a passage to the uncanniness, the otherness against what “a body” defines in our human world, reaching towards the enigmatic and spiritual transformation of beings. It is also sacred, the transformation from death to life, from the mortal to the immortal. By using elements such as skeletal spines and babies, I aim to recreate the flesh of abjection and uncanniness. I’d also like to connect with the space by installing the pieces in a space or place where they could be integrated. For instance, an underground place deeply connected with the earth with post-industrial human gestures such as wastes and ruins, or an abandoned site like a park or a church could evoke the charge of a ritual.

Working across various media such as ceramics, installation, painting, and film photography, how do you decide which medium to use for a particular concept or idea? Do you find that each medium allows you to express different aspects of your artistic vision, or do they intersect in a way that enriches the overall narrative? 

As I mentioned before, my involvement in various media came from different classes I was taking. By engaging with many media, I was also trying to expand similar ideas through different media so that they can correspond with each other. For instance, the photography I did also explores the idea of the othered space, which, as you said, enriches the overall narrative of my practice.

How do you approach the conceptualization of a new piece or series? Are there specific sources of inspiration that consistently fuel your creative process? 

That’s a very good question. I would say trying new things or techniques really gives me the impetus to develop new works. Like the “Ancestors” ceramic series, I tried to use only coils to build the entire structures. I usually don’t plan ahead of what I will make, but instead experiment with different compositions of how the coils could be connected regarding the gravity and the nature of the clay, which allows me to make different pieces. In terms of the inspirations, some came from mythical creatures, some are based on religion, such as crosses, gothic ornaments, and some are influenced by my retro black metal cult music taste (I guess that’s where their logos influenced my spiky aesthetics).

Are there artists, movements, or cultural influences that have played a significant role in shaping your artistic perspective?

Everyone is telling me about H.R. Giger. Of course, he is one of them. Jon Beinart’s Toddlerpeede also influenced my weird retro baby works. For contemporary artists, not all but Carlos Sáez, Ivana Basic, Anna Uddenberg, Frederik Heyman are my favorite artists.

Are there any dream projects or collaborations you aspire to undertake in your artistic career? 

Of course! I am currently exploring 3D printed ceramics at Bauhaus and, meanwhile, learning some 3D modeling and programming skills. I want to get involved in technology and do some cool stuff in the future. And yes, for collaboration, I’d love to connect with European artists while I’m still here!

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Bio

Dan Yang (1996) is a multidisciplinary artist originally born in China. After completing her BFA of Specialization in Film Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, she continued her second degree in Studio Art and is right now doing an exchange study at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in Germany. Dan’s spheres of practice span ceramics, installation, painting, and film photography. Her work often revolves around the body of abjection, of the undergoing metamorphosis that disturbs the body and organism, creating a passage to the uncanniness, the otherness against what “a body” defines by our human world, reaching towards the enigmatic and spiritual transformation of beings.

Credits

Artist / Dan Yang @damndandamnn

https://damndandamnn.com/

Interview / Markéta Kosinová

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