Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
Hi, my name is Cathrina Hao and I love the arts. I started practicing art in early childhood. I concentrated on painting, ceramics and graphic design in high school. However, I didn’t continue my art studies after high school. I was interested in Japanese and English, and I studied applied translation in Hong Kong; I think language is so powerful. However, I realized the connections between language and culture are unbreakable. Something is always lost in translating from one language to another. Also, I want to study what I have been passionate about so I decided to go abroad and study another major. That’s why I am studying Visual Culture and Performance Studies at Simon Fraser University. So far I am enjoying what I have been learning in my program. I never like multiple choice questions because I believe there are always more possibilities than those options and I like how contemporary art is situated in a grey area that is controversial and ambiguous. However, I like to learn through personal immersive experiences rather than from a secondary point of view. I was inspired by Bertolt Brecht. I want to break the fourth wall and be the active viewer, writer, performer. Participating in this field school is a big step towards my thinking and writing my own story. At SFU, I developed an interest in performing and conceptual arts. I know artists like Ai Wei Wei have often found inspiration while traveling and include their travel process in their artwork. I see travel as part of my performance work. Life is hard to predict when you are traveling. I see these unexpected events as new elements and particles in continuing my story.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about New York so far?
I am a city girl. I grew up in Hong Kong, so adapting to the New York city landscape is easy. I even feel deja vu sometimes. The subway system is similar to Hong Kong but more complicated. However, it is less complicate than in Tokyo. We are unable to see the city landscape from the train but I never feel bored because there is lots of public art and performances happening in this underworld. Also, we experience a transformation everyday traveling through this underworld. Within the Manhattan area the districts seem similar. However, there is a huge difference between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
I am surprised by how I safe I feel in Brooklyn. I’m even beginning to like this space. There are lots of open spaces and materials for people to experiment with. Joan Jonas mentioned in an interview that it is getting harder to find materials or spaces to perform on the street after the rapid industrialization of the city. However on the first night, my roommates and I passed by a grocery store and picked up a plastic crate and decorated our room. I considered this crate as part of our site-specific performance and installation.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Museum of Modern Art. Who is the artist? When was this work made? What is the content of this work? In what context and as part of what art movement was it made?
Jo Baer, my assigned artist, was trained in physiological psychology and is interested in optical phenomena. Her work in MoMA, Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue (1964 - 65 ) are three paintings belonging to a series of twelve that vary in color, size and shape. The works in this series can be arranged in 831, 753, 600 combinations. She is a Minimalist artist. Minimalism focuses on eliminating the pictorial illusion and focuses on the basic geometric form of the work. The artist decided to limit the paint on the border of the canvas instead of the center of the canvas. I wasn’t able to understand the artist’s intention through photography. The artist expected the audience to focus on the grey area between the border and center of the canvas, which is the grey area between the black outline and white surface.
After seeing your assigned art work in person (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most, and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it?
The presence of the work is more pronounced when I stand in front of the work at MoMA. I was surprised by the size of this series of “paintings”. They are huge. If I get closer to the work I couldn’t see the whole thing and was forced to trace the red, green and blue paint that are situated in between the back border and the white center. The flatness of the white surface and the black paint outlined the form of the painting. At the same time, when I look at the work from a certain distance, these paintings appear to be three single units instead of three surfaces that contain multiple units.
I found that there aren’t many Minimalist works in MoMA. I found more in the new Whitney Museum. There, I especially liked the Minimalist sculptures in the outdoor gallery. Minimalist artists prefer to use found materials and work on site. These sculptures are made of industrial materials that echo elements found in the neighbourhood of the museum. The museum itself is quite minimalist as well. I think Minimalist works are situated better in the New Whitney Museum.
Today’s activity was a free day spent any way that you wanted. What were your impressions of the place and parts of New York you visited? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
I decided to visit MoMA PS1 on my free day. MoMA PS1 is located in a building that was formerly a public school in Queens. I was hungry when I entered the museum, so I decided to go to the cafe. I was surprised when I entered the museum cafe and it was decorated like a classroom. I liked the idea of eating in a classroom as I wasn’t allowed to do that when I was a high school student. It felt like an act of rebellion. Also, there were notebooks and colored pencils in the drawer, so we were allowed to leave some traces in this place while we are eating.
I liked how they used the space in MoMA PS1. The building’s high ceilings and open spaces are perfect for experimental work with space. There is an art installation by Samara Golden located right next to the front desk. This installation makes use of the space to create an illusion of space that is upside down. The museum reuses an education institution building to provide rooms for artist to experiment. I especially liked Im Heung-Soon’s Reincarnation. The video installations successfully created a great tension by setting up two screens facing opposite one another. The two videos project different stories that create a stereophonic environment. Each one does not provide a complete story in chronological order but rather presents fragments. Audiences are entering the space between the two screens, and become the bridge and transmitter between these two views.