Nung-hsin Hu is a Taiwanese born Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary artist who interweaves video, film, performance, sculpture, and installation in her practice. Her work intends to reveal the invisible status, articulate the unconscious, and perform the vulnerability through a poetic and whimsical approach.
How did you begin working with/in response to natural environments?
I grew up in a Taiwanese industrial city at a time when it's economy was booming due to being “the factory of the world.” My childhood was surrounded with various kinds of pollution and synthetic materials. The impact of the natural environment didn’t really come into my life until I moved to the United States to study art and started to travel for artist residencies to Brazil, Chile, Arctic Circle, and Iceland.
Although my relationship with nature was limited to start with, my sense of curiosity, and the urge of interacting with my new surrounding environment made nature play one of the essential elements of my art practice. I created outdoor kinetic sculptures such as a thistle windmill and spinning zebra that are powered by wind, as well as utilizing honey corn pasta, sugar and natural latex to create outdoor installations that were intended to decay by natural forces overtime.
The mysterious power, sublime beauty, and unexpected temper of nature inspired me on various levels. I also discovered the strong connections to the high desert and northern landscape which are completely absent in Taiwan. Perhaps the longing for the dearth of life and the urge of learning about the unknown brings me to nature.
Share with us one of your favorite creative pieces and the natural environment it responds to.
“Why North?” is my newly finished video project which documents my journey during the Arctic Circle Residency 2017 Autumn Expedition in Svalbard - a Norwegian northeast archipelago, where a total of 40 participants and crew members sailed in a Tall ship in the Arctic ocean. During the three years since this life-time experience, I have reflected on the purpose of a modern-day Arctic Circle expedition and cannot overlook the ambiguous relationship between the “explorers” and the delicate High Arctic environment, and the dilemma caused by the process of creating an environmental project in this environment.
Without much connection to the outside world during the journey, the group also formed a micro-ecosystem that created intertwined connections from each participant’s single action to the whole group experience, reflecting the function of our larger society. My intent is to provide an open interpreted piece through a three-channel video format, displaying various perspectives on each activity. This allows the audience to grasp the answers based on their own interpretations.
The impact of the journey didn’t end on the day that we departed Svalbard. It continues through various forms, which is also one of the reasons that I have the honor of sharing my thoughts here.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to co-create with the natural world?
A few years ago I visited “The Lightning Field” by Walter De Maria. I booked the journey three months prior to the visit, and drove to a remote town in Western New Mexico, staying overnight in a cabin with four strangers in private high desert land (this is the only way you can see the installation). There are no photos allowed on site, a rule created by the artist since the beginning, so I spent most of time in the field wandering around the 400 stainless steel poles. The next morning, I was quite disappointed by not seeing any lightning, while watching some deers and rabbits jumping around the installation. The reflection of golden morning lights gradually made the 400 polls disappear, and all I saw was the enchanted landscape, sunlight and animals. Suddenly I realized the real purpose of this piece, which has provided me the best advice for co-creating with nature ever since.
Visit Nung-hsin's Website
Image info: 1: Lost, Mixed Media, 9’ x 8’ x 6", 2010; 2: Vertical Reflect, Single-channel Video, 01:37 (min), 2010; 3: Why North Still; 4: Why North?, Three-channel Video, 13:00 (min), 2020; 5: Eternal Return, a mixed-media installation including a 16mm film loop installation with analog projector, risograph prints, a motion censered flip clock, and mushrooms with printed words, whispering in the gallery corners, creating a cyclical view of time and memories.