To be a plant:A conversaiton with Xuanlynn Wang
"If beauty could be captured in an instant, then the temporariness lasts long enough."
The relationship between inooknit and Xuanlynn Wang is like a potted plant that flourished overnight. Xuanlynn’s art naturally showcases her sophisticated emotions. We invited her to document herself through the lens of a camera, and she created a distinctive look of inooknit shoes.
Q Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Xuanlynn Wang. I was born in Taoyuan, Taiwan. I have a bachelor’s degree in fashion design from Shih Chien University and went on to the Royal Academy of Arts in Antwerp, Belgium, and obtained a master’s degree in Theatre Costume Design.Right after I graduated from the university, I started working as a styling assistant. I’ve done styles for ads, movies, artists, soon after I began practicing accessory design and theatre costume design. I came to realize that I have a huge enthusiasm for creating, so I spent all my savings on an ESL school in the Philippines, stayed there for two months; received an IELTS certificate and got accepted to an academy in Belgium. I currently live in Antwerp, Belgium engaged in the fields of visual art, material creation, photography, and graphic design. I'm also a performer.
Q Can you tell us about your experience transitioning from fashion/costume design to fine art?
Honestly, I never thought that I’d get into fine art. Back when I was in the university for fashion design, I always felt that I loved designing clothes but not so much for fashion. When we would design a new collection, I found that the process of material research and development had always been particularly fascinating to me but I didn’t understand what that feeling was all about. My mentoring teacher Sam Hong Ling was supportive of me and he had introduced “Antwerp Six” in class, immediately I was drawn to the style of Antwerp Six and kind of just had the Antwerp’s Royal academy set in goal since then.After working for a few years, I realized that I have more passion for theatre costume design compared to fashion design. But because of my lack of experience in theatre, I considered going back to school. There weren’t many schools out there providing contemporary theatre costume design majors, but little did I know, Antwerp’s Royal Academy did. Without hesitation, I applied for the Royal Academy. Not only because it was my dream school, but also because the tuition was fair, and the works of the students there were riveting, as well. I pictured myself learning more about theatre costume design techniques here, but it also became a gateway to art on a different level. With that being said, I somehow got closer to the world that I fantasized about.
Q What is the relationship between you and the environment/plant?
I am deeply connected to my family, therefore many of my artwork were inspired by the concept of family, affection, and emotion. During my sophomore year in the academy, I created a project called “They’re seeking for a shelter in the eroded ocean.” This work is about global warming that’s caused by humankind, and how it has affected the Eskimos’s shelters. Suddenly I had an epiphany- since global warming was caused by people, I could prevent myself from contributing to the ferocity. My perspective has shifted ever since, and this “environment & plant” intertwined artsy journey just naturally emerged.
Q Can you tell us about the origin of “Bio-system”?
Back when I was learning about fashion design, I would see pieces of clothing on the racks. I felt like I knew for sure that these works would eventually be thrown out when I moved away. The idea of my artwork being buried somewhere on this planet broke my heart. At that moment, I felt like there was a voice telling me that I had been creating garbage this whole time.Therefore, zero-pollution & zero-waste became my ultimate goal. While I was writing my master’s thesis, I hoped that all of my artwork contained 100% sustainable materials. They should be biodegradable, better yet soluble in water. That way, no matter how much artwork I create, they will always be a part of nature. Once I had my ideas jotted down, “Bio-system” concept was created.
Q There are photography, live performance, material creation and more. How do you express yourself through different artforms?
I usually begin with creating fundamentals first. In my perspective, these natural substances are like fabrics. It becomes a piece of clothing on my body, clings to my skin when I perform, and I’d capture the moment with a camera. Feels like that was the standard procedure in the 21st century- “Create - Perform - Document”. It did not feel like it was my choice to do so but a system that this era had set. I want to take this opportunity to show gratitude to a fellow senior Yang Shang-Lian from school, who inspired me and taught me about photography. Because of him, I didn’t get lost in this digital world.
Q What’s different about living in Belgium vs. Taiwan?
Why did you decide to stay in Belgium?People’s pace of life is probably one of the biggest differences between the two countries. Even though I constantly remind myself to slow down, I'd still be considered fast-paced in Belgium. However, I enjoy it when the locals think I’m fast when I am really being slow(in my standard), I somehow enjoy it a lot. The reason why I chose to stay in Belgium was because I was accepted to Antwerp’s Royal Academy. I had never been to Europe and my impression of Belgium was simply about soccer which my cousin loves, beer, and fries. Well it seems like I wasn’t wrong, Belgium feels as simple as that, but I like it. I think that Belgians and Taiwanese are actually quite alike despite the differences that the two countries might have, I still feel very familiar here.
Q How do you usually start your day?
I have no routine. Sometimes I wake up at 3, 4AM but also 7, 8AM, and sometimes I sleep till noon and that’s why I look very different every single day. Even though it makes me wonder if I should start having a regular routine… I have no motivation to practice just yet though. But if it was a holiday, the first thing I’d do besides freshening myself up would be making myself breakfast and a cup of coffee. I would light an incense and see if I was in the mood to play some music. And I would then open the windows to enjoy some fresh air for the first time that day. Simple things like this are satisfying.
Q Can you talk about some of your recent activities?
It seems like the human body and environment are connected in “To be a plant in the botanical garden”. What was your inspiration?“To be a plant” was an artwork I created after receiving my master’s degree. The authentic connection with the earth had me wonder about many things. Why does the sound of the ocean share the same tone with our heartbeats? Why do we need nature? What is the relationship between the environment and us? While I was making business cards the other day, I randomly printed the lines of my body on a notebook. After that, I printed my foot on a piece of paper, and suddenly noticed how similar the footprints are from annual rings. Immediately a romantic notion popped up in my head- maybe we are all plants, we just live on earth in human form and that’s why we’re so intimate with nature.“To be a plant in the botanical garden” was an artwork created when I was invited by the Friends of S.M.A.K. museum to participate in the art festival. Before I got invited, “To be a plant” body-print series did not exist yet. So at first we were mostly talking about another show. We had many plans, photographs, installations, materials; but because of some conditions such as budgeting and conflicts, we weren’t able to execute the plans.I proposed this idea two months before the show and luckily it was confirmed at the last minute. I named the performance as “To be a plant in the botanical garden” because the venue was located in a botanical garden. I performed a total of 8 shows during this four-day exhibition. I performed at least 8 hours a day and presented my work in 8 different locations. Utilized my body and materials to conduct a beautiful conversation with the plants on a piece of paper. I was very honored to have the opportunity to perform with a professional Taiwanese performer, Wan-Lun Yu. We performed a two-women show next to the rectangular lotus pond. The image created on the last piece of paper from this performance symbolizes the message that I/we, as a plant, can convey without a conventional language.
Q Was it a new experience for you to do a photography collaboration with inooknit? Did anything interesting happen that you’d like to share? (or painful lol)
First of all, I’m thrilled to be working with inooknit. I appreciate fellow senior Zheng Qi’s invitation, and Ruby’s effort in communicating with me. I’m very grateful that inooknit trusts me. Well, there was this one incident dealing with oversea delivery. I witnessed some weird things that could happen when you ship with a European post. The rest of the journey was pretty great. There was no exhausting meetings nor restrictions. The whole process was surprisingly very laid back and smooth.I also want to mention that the weather was actually really bad on the day of the photoshoot. I chose that day because I thought it would be nice out, but then it turned out to be 13-14 degrees out and I had my film camera with me. I was so worried that the film quality would be destroyed. Fortunately, Nikon’s camera is solid, and that helped make everything work out and that the artwork was born. I do hope that all of you enjoy this experience.
Q What’s your future plan?
I never really had a long term plan, and perhaps I was always blessed by the universe that guided me to purely do what I love doing at the moment. Currently, I’m interning at a gallery called Everyday Gallery which I love. I hope I will get an offer to work at the gallery full time after my internship. In the first half of the year 2021, I wrote the “Environmental-consciousness hypothesis” prequel. Now I am also using this thesis to apply for a grad school (pre-PhD), simultaneously planning for my personal art exhibition. Lastly, what I hope for the most of course is that the pandemic be over, so I can get my VISA before christmas and go back home to reunite with my family. To me, the future doesn’t need to be planned because everything will work out “naturally”.
Photographer/ Xuanlynn Wang @lynnlynnwangTexts/ Ruby Li