The Dream that Flocks South 睡去依依随雁断 Lucy XC Liu 刘小川
When a being is erased from the corporeal world, it hides in dreams, memories, desires and becomes an extension of this world we are familiar with, an undercurrent that surges ferociously and fluidly in the darkness because it is freed of the limitations of time and space. These dreams, memories, desires are a much more permanent existence than us, they always remind us what we are subconsciously inclined towards, sometimes to an extent that makes us abandon the stability needed in an individual or a society. “I drift asleep with the southward flocks, and startle awake with the ever-chirping crickets” is a line from the poem Chrysanthemum Dream in the classic novel The Dream of the Red Chamber. The Dream that Flocks South is a moment of indulgence that will eventually face erasure, between drifting asleep and startling awake.
This exhibition discusses erasure on cultural and personal levels. The giant scale, immersive sculpture, and performance The Dream that Flocks South uses the love story in the Kunqu opera piece The Peony Pavilion which is referenced in The Dream of the Red Chamber as a thread, dialectically depicting how literature as a rebellion to socio-political orders is an eventually shattered dream. The video Unnamed Poem in Mourning delves deep into the no man’s land of grieving, eventually coming to terms with it by taking the world of the dead as a reflection of the realm of the living; the photo series I Gave My Tongue to the Wind describes the connected fate of grandma and me despite our extremely different marginalized qualities.
Lucy XC Liu is an artist and writer who wrestles with grief and historical residue by portraying hunger, uncanniness, or individuality as challenges to the version of history often used to justify power. She is the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Fellowship and the Paris Photo Prize. Her works have been exhibited in the US, Italy, Greece, France, including the Los Angeles Center of Photography and Espace Beaurepaire in Paris.
She has attended guest readings at the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst College, and Unnameable Books. Her poetry chapbook The Rye of Pondering was selected by renowned poet Cameron Awkward-Rich and published by Jubilat Journal at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
As an art journalist and writer, she interviewed artists including Gregory Crewdson, Viviane Sassen, Stephen Shore, James Welling, and the curator Gu Zheng. Her article about Kunqu opera was published in Folklife Magazine at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
睡去依依随雁断 The Dream that Flocks South
Immersive sculpture and performance
Near 100㎡ of handmade paper
I tore The Dream of the Red Chamber, soaked it in water, turned it into pulp, and spooned it onto the floor to make new paper to cover the entire room, referencing the line “The land is abluted by snowfall” from this book. Before the exhibition, the room is speckless as if covered in snow. When the exhibition opens, I invite the audience to walk onto the paper and into the work, thus treading and tearing it.
In the sculpture, I will create an immersive theatre with my partner Jesse Wang. We will perform excerpts from the acts “An Interrupted Dream” and “The Departing Soul” from the Kunqu opera The Peony Pavilion. In “An Interrupted Dream”, the young lady Du Liniang falls asleep in the peony pavilion, and dreams of the young scholar Liu Mengmei who approaches her with a willow branch in hand. They have an affair in the garden. When Du Liniang wakes and realizes that all is a dream, she is heartbroken and falls ill.“The Departing Soul” depicts her death. These two acts hold important metaphorical value when they are referenced in The Dream of the Red Chamber. On the floor covered by an erased and illegible version of this book, we will guide the audience to different spaces in the paper sculpture, using the switch of space and scene to indicate the opposition between dream and reality.
Political oppression in history destroys or marginalizes works of literature like The Dream of the Red Chamber and The Peony Pavilion because they appreciate the desires in human nature. To express an attitude, as opposed to remaining silent, is already an act of revolt. This dream of culture is deemed to be shattered.
“Death. A piece of bad meat that the butcher threw into the trash. I am a stray dog. I approached it. There are flies all over it. I sniffed it. I breathed it in strongly. Then jerked my head. I started to go away with my muzzle close to the ground…but I trotted back, wagging my tail. I sniffed it again. Finally, I licked it, I sank in my teeth. All the flies lifted into the air.” (Excerpt)
The Peony Pavilion, Tang Xianzu
The Dream of the Red Chamber, Cao Xueqin
Le théâtre et son double, Antonin Artaud, 1938
L’homme révolté, Albert Camus, 1951
Approaching Artaud, from Under the Sign of Saturn, Susan Sontag, 1980