2019 JBSB, California Institute of the Arts


   

The Beautiful Afar



    I grew up on the history or migration of my family, which is also in the wave of China’s population movement begins at the end of the 20th century. People migrated with or without family and transplantation themselves into big cities and countries abroad in pursuing of a better living.
    This exhibition shows in two parts: my parents’ journey back to the land in China; and my journey in California, seeking for the essence of hope and belonging in between of home and the land afar. The junction point of our journeys is a center of isologue, where we look towards both paths of past and future, sharing connected memories of different people.
    A Russian melody lingering between two realities, at the same time, giving a name to this show. The Beautiful Afar is the name of a Soviet Union song that I learned as a kid in China. It appeared both sad and ironic when I recalled this melody while walking on the streets in LA, in this city of dreams and alienation.
    Here I am, a young foreign girl with disillusionment and borrowed nostalgia. I attempt to sing the song on the streets of LA, sending a message that someone with shared memories may possibly connected to.
    The rivers are always similar, reminiscent of people’s hometowns. As a stranger in a foreign land, it is hard not to get close to the river. Even in California, where creeks are now becoming canals. I see rivers as floating roads that connects human settlements, both in present and history. River carries an ancient sorrow and comfort for a person longing of home. I walked on the canals with a suitcase, trying to go back to the source of the river, where I may find my home.
    Questions of optimism have been raised up both on the past and the future, on revolution and capitalism. As the Chinese poet Ouyang Jianghe asked, “Which one has more nostalgia?” How should we ask the question “What to do”, in a Lenin’s way or in a poet’s way? There is more on the road to be discovered and rediscovered.








©  Jiayu Zhang  2020