THE WOMAN BEHIND THE TOFU
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10/18/2016
By GreenHill
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Last month we featured a piece from Lu Xu, one of our Insistent Objects artist that highlighted the dynamic of opposing powers through the passing of time, illustrated by a clock filled with salt and pepper. This month we were able to get to the woman behind the art with a featured interview previewed below.

Ritchie: Tell me a little bit about you and why you do what you do?

Lu: “Originally from China I went to school in Beijing to study accounting for 3 years. It was during my studies that I was able to participate in an exchange program at Northern State University in South Dakota (NSU). When I accidently enrolled in a sculpture class, I discovered my artistic abilities, leading me to make a complete change in my life. I ended up transferring schools and completely freaked out my parents for two years. For the first two years it was really difficult just getting through the system differences of the U.S. compared to China and the severe self-doubt of if I’d made the right choice. Gradually the works I made affirmed my confidence. Interesting enough, during an activity in my art history class, Bad Joke Fridays, I was able to find my dark humor. In my senior year at NSU, I took part in a Franconia Sculpture Park as an intern artist and a residency through Vermont Studio Center. Both prestigious programs have contributed greatly to my life as an artist. The experiences were empowering and eye-opening. Due to an agreement I made with my parents, I went on to grad school after undergrad, leading me to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I became a part of the community through interning at Elsewhere and working part-time as Curator at UNCG Art Department Gallery and the Art Truck, where I was fortunate to keep working as full-time since this August.

My earlier works were more introspective and intuitive, where I mainly focused on the formal design and personal perspectives. I’m lucky that interdisciplinary comes natural for me. I’ve always embraced a wide variety of media that is orientated towards ideas. I slowly developed fascination with the body. The work proceeded from incorporated body in sculptures and installations to short or endure performances that investigate human body’s role in the social constructions and their fluxing relationship. In Walking, San Francisco Series, I used myself in an experiment, and walked all day long for 20 days in the cities and suburbs of a foreign place. I was moved away from my normalcy, yet at the same time was able to return to the very basics as a human being. If I let the experience run through me, what would the art be? A lot of my works intend to expand the poetry that resides in the mundane. “

Ritchie: Could you tell us the background story to your featured pieces in the Insistent Objects show?

Lu: “Salt and Pepper is a persistent drawing. As the hands of the clock cultivate the black and white grits, time is both in melody and in challenge with the mundane. The idea is very simple, and anyone can predict what is happening. But it takes looking at the piece to confront your perceptions.

My second piece, Fermented Tofu Is Good for Your Guts, came out of my cultural experience in both China and the U.S. We grew up with Marxism and it is a required subject to be tested in all standard tests, including applying to colleges and graduate schools. An advantage to having lived in both China and the States is that I quickly found out that both are lying in different ways. The generalization was formed in the general public of this country that China will be better off if the government had more democracy. This is just another imperial message that irritates me greatly. I made the fermented tofu into the word of democracy and I, as a Chinese, will be eating it in the context of American audiences, as a performance to react the message “Democracy is good for you.” I call it “Fermented Tofu is good for your guts,” and it is.

During the performance, I invited the audience to eat the common dish of my culture, fermented tofu (my dad’s favorite), and create a space where conversation is allowed and encouraged about the common misconceptions and assumptions of China. The goal is not to be educational but really to create a safe space where the misconceptions can be dismantled and I can learn from my audience. By doing the performance, the work has taken its own life and taught me.”

Ritchie: What inspires you?

Lu: “Everyday life, big and small adventures, books, people, the process of making, and so on. I look into artists and writers like Qiu Zhijie, Xie Deqing, Joseph Beuys, Rebecca Solnit, etc. I find so much poetry in what they do. The intensity, the performance, the body – how mundane, rhythmical movements come together to make art.”

Ritchie: What themes do you pursue?

Lu: “My themes come from asking questions. My curiosity over how things work. For example, the effects of how we treat our body, and how it manifests to how we think and feel. I try to weave through the mundane and ask “Where are the gaps?” The things we ignore and I expand on that. I work through my experiences, as a Chinese person living in a contemporary time while using an artist way of thinking. Logic ultimately mixing with my curiosity.”

To learn more about Lu Xu and her art click here.