Shining Zhu

Artist Statement

Cut a piece of twine the length of your arm span.

Take one end and tie a knot.

Tell the twine about your day.

Continue knotting.

Let the knots accumulate.


Stop when the conversation ends.

Cut another piece if needed.


I’m so disconnected from my body that I want to force my mind to stop and feel. The moment my hands feel the roughness of the string and the moisture in the clay, I return to my breathing. A rhythm emerges naturally. Hold and release, hold and release, hold and release. 

During my sick time, I spend hours and hours creating feeling objects through small, repetitive motions. They exist as a stamp, a trace of action, time, and emotion, pointing towards my feeling body’s presence despite its absence. 

I see myself in the knotted twine – holding so much tension yet appears to be at ease. Upon first glance, the twine accumulations seem quiet and delicate, yet they insist on hanging in gravity with resoluteness. As I continue to leave my traces on the materials, the materials leave their marks on my hands. My hands remember where they met. 

I knot by myself and together with others. Invoking the spirit of Fluxus, I prompt participants with poems to engage in meditative exercises with twine. In the process, the twine becomes a vessel for inner emotion; the simple, repetitive knotting busies the hands while freeing the mind.

Artist Bio

Shining Zhu is an artist based in New York City who works across sculpture, installation, and poetry. Through meditative gestures, she transforms cotton twine and clay into a vessel of time, emotions, and traces of existence. She draws from her experience with chronic illness and finding relief within a world dictated by her fluctuating physical and mental abilities. She invites other people into her practice with collective knotting activities that provide people a chance to pause and think. At the core of Shining’s practice is the belief that art is available to people in their everyday lives. She received her BA in Psychology from Bryn Mawr College and her MSW from Columbia University School of Social Work. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA at Parsons School of Design and was a recipient of the Anti-Oppression Collective Fellowship in 2021.