East Meets West of Yuge Zhou

Artist Yuge Zhou collages video footage into cubist-like installations that explore how individuals unconsciously form communities in their environments. As a Chinese-American immigrant, Zhou’s perspective is so necessary right now, as we confront narratives about theMidtown coronavirus outbreak and general resentment towards others. Zhou’s work and story reminds us of our shared experiences of isolation and longing but also offers an intricate, mind-bending escape when we need it most.

Her newest series, when the East of the day meets the West of the night, is her most personal yet, combining mirrored images along the same latitudes on opposite sides of the Pacific and including correspondence between herself and her mother who is currently quarantined in Beijing. Zhou has quite a few shows lined up for the summer and early fall (depending on the course of the current situation) in San Francisco, CA and Austin, TX, as well as in Amman, Jordan and South Korea. Her work Underground Circuit was selected as honorary mention for 2020 Prix Ars Electronica in Austria.

Her newer work, “when the East of the day meets the West of the night,” but is also open to discussing her past work, namely The Humors seriesUnderground Circuit or Midtown Flutter

Name: Yuge Zhou @yugezhou

Birthplace: Beijing, China

Métier: Artist 

Sources of inspiration: Most of my projects are inspired by places. They are filmed on location, and all are site-specific. Since I moved to the US in 2007, I have adopted a different language and culture. Unfamiliarity heightens my sensitivities to places that the local population may conceive as normal. I am motivated to explore and transform myself into a hybrid of two cultures experiencing anunderlying sense of loss and longing in these places. There are obvious cultural differences, but there are also universally shared emotions: relaxation, anxiety, joy, hope, indifference, loneliness—all of which are what I hope to evoke through the lens of my work.

Sources of motivation: Knowing what I create can bring a sense of beauty and hope & Challenging myself to push beyond my capabilities 

What makes you happy: Road trips, seeing exhibitions or films that move me, talking ideas with like-minded friends

Favorite reads: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Chinese poetry from the Song Dynasty – I love how succinct yet lively the Chinese verses are from that period. 

Favorite tunes: Schubert’s “Serenade”, “I Will Wait for You” from The Umbrella of Cherbourg and pretty much everything by Lana Del Rey 

Favorite foods: “Scrambled eggs with tomatoes” one of the most mundane Chinese dishes that my Mom used to make all the time when I was a little girl. It was like a ritual. 

Beauty tips: Fruit Smoothies, tinted sunscreen & natural makeup without foundation 

Favorite ways to unwind: People watching, or seeing exhibitions in a large art museum where I can decompress as if I were window shopping. 

What gets you in a working flow: Focusing on one project at a time. When I have a very clear idea of what needs to be done in order to execute it, that gets me into a working flow. I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator during the beginning stages when ideas are floating all over the place. 

What are you working on now: I’m working on a two-part video series entitled when the East of the day meets the West of the night. The first video, filmed last fall in two locations near my previous homes in Beijing and California, looks across from both sides of the Pacific Ocean. The camera slowly moves laterally as the sun descends and ascends in two skies to create an arc-shaped trajectory. The dual scenes represent the contemplation and longing for what lies beyond. The second video follows the same format with the rising and setting moon across mountain ranges of both countries. We just filmed the super moon rise in early April in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado (which is part of the Great Divide that designates the line at which waters flow either to the east and the west), and I’m planning to film the moonset near the Himalaya Plateau in China.

Favorite motto / quote: “Living through art is a better way to live – not necessarily making art, but being surrounded by art. I think it’s just as banal as trying to show my version of the beauty in the world. It’s about beauty at the end of the day.”—Ragnar Kjartansson