Category: Artists' Film International — Published:

In celebration of her online screening of Sanzu Ding and Its Patterns, we spoke with artist Yao Qingmei about her recent projects, the search for new perspectives and finding solace in all things DIY.

Portrait of Yao Qingmei. Courtesy of the artist.


Where are you from and how did you become interested in moving image work?

I’m from Wenzhou, China. I now live and work between Wenzhou and Paris. My first experience with moving image was as documentation of performance art, but later I became interested in moving image as a medium of its own.

Yao Qingmei, One Rehearsal, 2018, Documentary installation, 11 A3 size paper with notes, 38 A4 size photos, 3 paper with the operating process, 1 audio record, 7 A3 size photos, 1 Performance Video, Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Magician Space, Beijing.


How and what inspired the work?

In 2012, I made a three-legged ding (Sanzu Ding) and, naturally, thought of decorating it with some sort of pattern. The motif of a scythe and hammer is very straightforward, because our bodies are immersed in its symbolism. However, if you transplant it into a neolithic context, perhaps we could achieve some distance to it, or interpret it from a different perspective.

What inspired/influenced you to make Sanzu Ding?

Archaeological documentaries and time-travel sci-fi movies.

Yao Qingmei, One day’s Poetry, 2019, Video, colour & sound, 13 min. Courtesy the artist and Magician Space, Beijing.


Where does the work fit into your wider practice and concerns?

My work is deep-rooted in a critical reaction into the formulation of political and social questions, exploring how symbolic gestures gain or lose power through forms of appropriation and displacement. Humor plays an important role in my work, using the poetics of comedy to expose the absurdity of a particular issue.

How is the artist finding the current situation of being home and how this is affecting their practice:

I live in my studio. In this period, I try to be creative with readily available materials around me, as well as try to finish editing some videos from before, and writing. I have more free time and therefore more time to think.

Yao Qingmei, Molt (Body Inspection), 2017, Three-channel HD video, color & sound, Chinese with English subtitles, 9 min. Courtesy the artist and Magician Space, Beijing.


During the current climate, how are you maintaining your art practice from home or in post-lockdown conditions?

Because of social-distancing and the pandemic that made it necessary, more collaborative projects became more difficult. As a result, I’m seeking more autonomous media and approaches to be creative.

What are you exploring/experimenting with during this time?

I became interested in DIY products and online tutorials. For example, how do you sprout pepper or lemon seeds bought at the supermarket? How do you refurbish found furniture? How do you make cloth masks? How do you make tofu? How do you design a rooftop/vertical farm?

Yao Qingmei, Golf, 16 surveillance screens, one hole, 2019, Performance archive. Courtesy the artist and Magician Space, Beijing.