School of Art, Media, and Technology

吃了吗 Chi Le Ma?

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Works from the MFA Photography and Related Media Program made in China

吃了吗 Chi Le Ma?

April 5-19, 2012
Opening Reception: April 5th, 7-9pm

Frontrunner Gallery
59 Franklin Street
(between Broadway and Lafayette)
New York City, New York, USA

This is an exhibition of works by Nathan Bett, Alison Chen, Colleen Fitzgerald, Sylvia Hardy, Phoenix Lindsey-Hall, Sharon Ma, Charlie Rubin, Jose Soto, Maria Sprowls, and Yichen Zhou (all MFA’12) made during a 2-week experience in China in 2011. The trip coincided with the 11th edition of the Pingyao International Photography Festival in which the Parsons MFA Photography and Related Media program participated. With the exception of two artists in the group, none of the other artists had previously spent any time in the country. These artists grappled with the unfamiliar culture, politics, sites, natural environments, and architecture of the new landscape.

The majority of the works exist as a record of the attempt to reconcile the unfamiliarity of the experience, while Yichen Zhou’s work provides poignant commentary on Chinese culture from the perspective of a native. Sharon Ma transforms the sheer quantity of the journey’s intangible experiences into the tangible objects of a scroll and functional tablecloth, relating back to the exhibition’s overriding theme, “Have you eaten?” All of the works approach capturing a sense of place in a playful manner, and none do this better than the video performance of Phoenix Lindsey-Hall as she dances in tiger costume upon the Great Wall of China.

Works by Bett, Fitzgerald, Sprowls, Rubin, Chen, and Hardy are hung together in a salon-style mural. It is through arranging, framing, ordering, reordering, fragmenting, and connecting the range of subjects encountered by each individual that a larger dialogue arises. Here the photographic objects act more as artifacts to bring another part of the world to our doorstep.

“Chi Le Ma?” or “Have you eaten?” is a question often asked by Chinese people as a way of greeting. It is an informal way to ask of the well being of others, just as we would say “How are you?” Or, considered in another, perhaps more thoughtful way, the question can mean, “Have you readied yourself to experience the world, to see what is around you?” In this sense, one can say that food, more than anything else, is the starting point of the composition, more essential than one realizes. The artists in this show come together to the proverbial table to share their experiences.

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