- Liz Publika
Talent Spotlight: Tianlan Deng
The work of Tianlan Deng, a rising mixed media artist whose recent exhibition reflects the cultural influences of the two distinctly different countries he’s had the pleasure of calling home, can be described as thought-provoking social commentary. Based in New York, Deng is originally from Shanghai, where he grew up before relocating in pursuit of further art training and education. The experience was illuminating for Deng, so he decided to use it as inspiration for his latest art project.
“Cave” is an installation featured in Duality, a group exhibition “that focuses on relationships between counterparts” presented by the Royal Society of American Art in Brooklyn, New York. The artwork is inspired by Deng’s experiences attending the American education system as well as the state-run public education system in China; some may be aware that the country’s strict regulation of the school system has been criticized for its rigorousness and dehumanizing pragmatism that emphasizes social unity, conformity, and efficiency above all else.
As an artist, Deng is at odds with the social and political ideology that guides the Chinese education system. Art is about expression, communication, and inspiration — all of which tend to be subjective, personal, and/or individualistic. As a result, Deng decided to use his experiences to share his feelings on the destructive effects of creative suppression.
“The vertical installation space is filled with long manuscript scrolls strung-up from the ceiling, onto which Tianlan has documented his rote learning efforts. Each scroll is covered in repetitive patterns of blurred typeface characters — suggesting that true knowledge and understanding cannot be achieved through this regiment. At the center of the installation, Tianlan has recreated the repressive classroom environment of his youth as a miniature diorama. As viewers peer inside the diorama, a video projection plays on continuous loop — depicting the same blurry typeface characters written across the hanging scrolls — reinforcing the monotonous, authoritative tone, delivered more as a punishment than a lesson.”
The incredible loneliness and sense of isolation of “Cave” is unmistakable and deeply provoking. The projection of the writing evokes thoughts of organized parades and displays of social conformity. The long walls of the chamber convey the feeling of being contained, and the stacked papers depict the bureaucracy that’s synonymous with social regulation. And yet, using text, architectural design, and projected media, Tianlan Deng was able to share something personal and unique.
Note* The Talent Spotlight is a sponsored post by Color Brigade Media.