In 2019 multidisciplinary artist Jui-Tsz Shiu moved from Taipei (Taiwan) to Groningen for her MA Fine Art & Design at the Frank Mohr Institute and had to get used to a different landscape, culture and way of life in the Netherlands. She talks about how moving to the other side of the world has influenced her work.
Ruth: ‘Before you came to the Netherlands you attended art school in Taiwan, what was your work about at that time?’
Jui-Tsz: ‘It was related to space. I did site-specific installations and I used a beamer to create scenes of space between reality and imagination. I was working with reality. Here in Groningen I started to focus on things related to myself and my work became more personal. This year it developed a bit further because I started to interview other immigrants who have been here for like 20 years. There’s a shift from my own personal memory to the memory of others. It is more related to society and the reality of immigration. I interviewed other immigrants about their childhood memories of their homes and about their attachment to their own country and their situation in the Netherlands.
R: ‘How is life in Groningen? Do you feel at home?’
J: ‘I had to move three times the last couple of years in Groningen, so I don’t feel really settled down. I’m always between places.’
R: ‘That must be difficult, or is it something you get used to?’
J: ‘I can get used to it when I focus on something else. When I first arrived in the Netherlands I really had to get used to the house, the place and the environment. Sometimes I confuse it with my childhood-house where I lived for 18 years. I still feel like my body did not settle down in the new environment. My body is still in Taipei. I’m in the process of crossing, in the middle.’
Jui-Tsz has moved more times in the last couple of years than I have in a lifetime, I can hardly imagine how restless it must be to change places so often and to have to get used to a new environment every time. Her work has become a method to analyze and describe the changes that come with it.
J: ‘My work is about finding ways to describe this kind of feeling. I created an abstract imaginary place which is in the middle where I combine my childhood house and my new place. I approached this space in different ways, it’s about memory, emotions and focusing on the way my body experiences the space.’
Jui-Tsz makes videos and installations in which she shows how you always relate new surroundings to the spaces from your memory. In 5 Ways To Pack, the thesis she wrote at the Frank Mohr Institute, she describes in a beautiful manner how she finds ways to take these memories with her. The body is her starting point because for Jui-Tsz the bodily experience is a way to return to her memories. Staying at Witte Rook is another transition of environment for her, and offers a new place to unpack.
J: ‘For me it was the first time to be alone in such a big building and it was a bit scary, and the building has odd sounds. I stayed in my bedroom at night and was scared to come out. And I felt not totally at ease and still had to create work. My original plan was to try and find ways to build up the imaginary house based on the building of Witte Rook. But when I came here I wanted to focus more on my feelings in this house. I made sketches and models to represent these feelings. I thought about being in the space as well as the space that exists in my mind. I made a sketch of the changing of the sun and the lights and color changing on the walls. And I thought about the limitations of the space. The garden is limited by the concrete walls. After a few days I felt the pressure of the walls.’
R: ‘You also photographed yourself on the roof of Witte Rook while folding your bedsheet, what does that represent to you?
J: ‘It’s about the feeling of carrying the space and the corporeal experience, like packing stuff, this folding. In my thesis I talk about 5 ways to pack, it represents bringing your corporeal experience from your past. To carry the memories and to preserve them. I pack totally abstract things. I also filmed the wall of my working space at Witte Rook and wrote an accompanying text with it. But this video is not finished, it’s still a script, a few sentences.’
I have been preparing for a long time,
rehearsing many times in my mind.
There’s many times I imagine I am flying,
I glide for a long time,
It is more like a state that the body is suspended in the air
I’ve been planning to return.
I’m looking for ways, but I don’t know where the destination is. I arrange what to carry,
what to throw away,
what can be carried and what cannot.
I always practice,
I make all my preparation
only one step away from the deed
It has completed its dream effect, it has completed its imaginary effect