Shuang (They/She) is a multimedia artist and curator based in NYC. Shuang is now studying as a graduate student at NYU Interactive Telecommunication program and holds a dual Bachelor’s Degree from Bard College Computer Science and Studio Art program. Their art practice is often concerned with philosophy, logic, interactions, and interpersonal dynamics. Their curatorial practice repeatedly develops from interdisciplinary approaches and cross-cultural references. They are currently writing for Adjacent Magazine at New York University. Recently, they are working as the manager and in-house curator for LATITUDE Gallery New York.
What was the most important thing you learned at your first job in the Arts?
It is even hard to pin down the earliest one. My first few jobs in the Arts were fragmented into different unpaid but enriching practices with local galleries, publications, individual artists, and academic institutes. They taught me how to be resourceful and eager for any intellectual opportunities when possible in both curatorial and art practices. I also learned that I must embrace the cringe in both my arts and writings, so please bear with me throughout this interview!
Where are you from and what is the arts community like there? How has your upbringing shaped what you do in the arts today?
I’m from Beijing, China. I came to the US for my undergrad studies and stayed here for my graduate degree. It is difficult to vocalize how Beijing and authoritarian ideologies shaped my practices. I grew up a rebel, experiencing the flourishing underground culture in contrast to the constant struggles against the currents. One would assume that the American life now became my liberation, and I, myself, have wished things to be simple as that so many times.
On the surface, I seem to shift my attention – to social classism and elitism, to racial and geo-historical cultural conflicts, to substance abuse and gun control. The plan is to have them as divergence, and they work perfectly in the sense that my memory of home is becoming distant and blurry. Only occasionally, I feel guilty and pointless for any efforts I might have made to bring myself some comfort.
In my five years of school in the US, I learned all the possible words to describe the weird feeling and experiences I’ve had: disillusionment, existentialism and nihilism, Asian diaspora, etc. However, I still find myself constantly filling a gap with my art practices.
Tell us about your experience at LATITUDE Gallery in historical Chinatown, NYC.
I started working with LATITUDE in 2020 when the gallery was first established in Williamsburg, Brooklyn when I was still studying at Bard College in upstate New York. I was introduced by a common friend and started helping this artist-run space occasionally with exhibitions and workshops. I started my full commitment to LATITUDE in 2021 after moving to the city.
What have been your greatest accomplishments and challenges in your career thus far?
I am deeply proud of my work at LATITUDE Gallery. In this all-female-run art space, I was supported and given opportunities to be closely connected with Manhattan’s local Chinese and artistic communities. A lot of my works became exploring the thick and diverse cultural and political environment by connecting dots between artists, artworks, targeted audiences, and the public.
The problems come with my attempts to foster diverse art communities. It is never easy to break boundaries and bypass barriers across cultures, communities, and even classes. Sometimes the struggles look like navigating gatekeeping and canceling culture; sometimes it is about handling interpersonal relationships with individuals.
You are a curator, artist, and computer scientist! How does your computer science background interact with your art practice?
Though I talk about the failing of language and the ensuing nihilistic misgivings that had rendered me paralyzed in the previous questions, at some point, reading back into my families history, I started believing that the future – the embodiment of a conscious, proactive belief in social progressivism, in art, and in science and technology – was exactly the very antidote I needed to ward off this petty malaise of late capitalist ennui. As in the wake of my rekindled faith in progressivism, I have embarked on a journey to search for meanings, or lack of meanings thereof.
The more I read and contemplate cultural critiques on postmodern art, the more I can’t help noticing how technologies—especially, codes— as art media will help to potentially address various contentious debates. On the other hand, the more code I write, the more I realize I am finding sanctuaries in logic and codes that would be a shame to be only limited to the “practical” tech industry. Later on, standing at the intersection of subjects, I am often presented with intriguing perspectives and absurd ideas that further helped me with my curatorial practices.
Share with us more about your most recent curatorial project, Time Feast, a solo exhibition featuring Yanyan Huang’s work.
Yanyan and I were introduced by Shihui Zhou – the director of LATITUDE. I was brainstorming with LATITUDE’s team trying to find an angle for this show and found volumes and volumes of writings and press describing her works in a professional, theorized, and academic manner. While academic writing has its place and power, I approached Shihui and asked how she would feel about taking this show as an opportunity to describe the lovely relationship between the artist and our gallery. Of course, she applauded my idea and shared the exquisite and heartfelt story of how she first met Yanyan which later on rooted the theme of this show.
To read more about the show, here’s the link to our online viewing room! Stay tuned because we are also in process of planning a curator walkthrough/closing tea event. We will post about it on our Instagram soon.
What is some of the best advice you have ever received?
I was taught to be hungry for opportunities, not to be afraid of rejection, and fight for what I believe is right and true. All of these are part of the main reasons I am bringing together arts and people and doing what I love. On top of that, I have a wish for myself and anyone who might be in the same boat as me – to make peace with the anxiety that comes along with that process. It is all going to be okay eventually.
How do you think the art world can become more transparent?
Being a foreigner in the US while working in Arts is a battle. For those who are not familiar, the O1 Visa is meant to support foreign artists’ (and other extraordinary talents’) legal status and grant them security for creations in the US. However, I know so many amazing artists are forced out of the industry or even the country because it is ridiculous to apply for an artist’s O1 Visa while producing quality works. The amount of bureaucracy and formality one must go through in order to obtain the VISA is beyond multiple decent lawyers’ imagination. I am speaking plainly and naively, but I do hope the boardless world comes true one day when everyone can create, study, and at least live wherever they desire.
What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror at Whitney. I was fortunate enough to see both show locations and blown away by the curatorial coherence and cleverness.
If you could own work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
What a question! It made me think of so many things too: What does it mean to “own” a piece of art? Is the price tag and name on the piece and the receipt a recognition of the artists’ intellectual production? How would you own some abstract artworks? I have so many on my list, and the answer will definitely be different tomorrow morning, but for now:
- Self Punishing Computer (2022) by Blair Simons
- Invisible Sculpture On Wheels (2020,2021) by Yeseul Song
- Any Chindogu by Kenji Kawakami (though I think this one cannot be owned by definition)
- Brainfuck by Urban Müller (similar to the one above..)
- Vanity (2009) by Betye Saar