“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”, is a sentence composed by Noam Chomsky in his 1957 book Syntactic Structures as an example of a sentence that is grammatically correct, but semantically nonsensical.
I recently started to make a collection of cameras which I call “grammatical nonsense.” They are plausible products made out of found objects from hardware stores. These objects refer to linguistics in that they take the structure (syntax) of something but there is no actual function (meaning). This idea of ungrammatical sense-making is the second part to this project that I want to continue working on. That is, to make objects with only the function but not the form. For example, something that takes picture but doesn’t look like cameras.
With a focus on languages, semiotics and linguistic structures, LINGUA is a series of zines that visualize and write about linguistic data, namely, phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics.
The Phonology zine aims to create a sign system that visualizes some examples of contrastive sounds that make minimal pairs in English. The sign system is then applied to another language I am learning – Japanese. By examining minimal pairs in English, an English speaker may be able to use this system to decode the pronunciations of some Japanese words.
The Morphology zine uses the example of receipts to visually define “morpheme”, which is the smallest linguistic unit that carries meaning. One or more morphemes can form a word. Similar to the structure of a word, a receipt is a collection of one or multiple smallest actions or objects, and combining several small transactions together amounts to a social scenario that tells a narrative.
The Semantics zine addresses the lexical gap between English and Chinese. Lexical gap is when there isn’t a word for something in a language. Sometimes words don’t exist in a language because they are specific to another culture, and there isn’t as much need for these words in a certain language. A native speaker of one language may not find it troublesome, as s/he rarely attempts to address things that are not in the lexicon. A multilingual speaker, however, may finds the missing of certain words results in some sort of confusion. We encounter lexical gaps whenever there is a need to translate a language to another. When we can’t find a word in the target language, we might use a longer phrase to describe it. In this publication, I try to address the lexical gap between English and Chinese. While lexical gap might be a purely linguistic concept, it’s undoubtedly influenced by cultures.
On the personal level, I see myself residing in this lexical gap. The moments I blank out, I stumble over words, I mispronounce something, I make syntactic errors, I get lost in translation, I feel culturally disconnected...I am very much living in the gap in between cultures and languages.
And the Syntax zine illustrates a diagram to define grammatical nonsense. Syntax is the component of grammar that deals with how words and phrases are combined into larger phrases. Although it’s important to be grammartically correct to precisely convey meanings, we are able to understand many ungrammatical sentences as well. Meanwhile, it’s also possible that a sentence is completely grammatical while being meaningless.
Hardworking Goodlooking lecture poster
“Everything That Fits”, is a study of morphology and morphemes. Linguistically, a morpheme is the smallest unit to construct a word. How can a smallest unit be defined visually?
I assigned an arbitrary space to frame a smallest unit, and collected objects that fit in the space. Occasionally, there are objects that escape from the frame. The project aims to defamiliarize – or “unknow” – emphemral objects, and to recombine fragmented units.
The defined morpheme is further broken down and translated to pixels.
Light drawing experiment - the making of the “Mistranslation Statement” video installation.
“A real translation is transparent: it does not cover the original, does not block its light, but allows the pure language, as though reinforced by its own medium, to shine upon the original.”
- Walter Benjamin
Trying to capture my experience of the first semester of grad school, I wrote a poem and made a narrated video about my personal failure to translate my mind into language and my art practice. I then project-mapped the video onto multiple fragmented surfaces, and the light is transmitted through several transparent layers to refer to the above statement from Benjamin.
Benjamin also mentions that “the task of the translator consists in finding the particular intention towards the target language which produces in that language the echo of the original.” If translation is an echo of the original message, what is my intention in trying to translate, or to transmit the light and my voice? Is it my intention to alleviate my fear of mistranslation, or to reinforce the inevitability of it?
“Confrontation: Never Happened” is a parody of a political incident in Hong Kong last September, when local college students put up pro Hong Kong independence posters on campus, and afterwards a student from mainland China tore them down. The heated debate (and fight) over independence and national identity has escalated both on and off the internet as an aftermath.
This installation is my formal exploration to recontexualize the deconstructive process inside the posters, and an invitation for the audience to destroy from the outside. The original poster indicates political confrontation. How much does the meaning shift when I tear down, cover up, destroy, degrade, deconstruct, deform, obscure, or change the narrative? What is my role when I provide an audience the tools to destroy?
It is violence under control.
It is a party for deconstruction.
It is a site for new identity to be born in the death of the old.
It is confrontation in the name of avoiding confrontation.
Another study of morphology and morphemes. I was investigating how a smallest unit can be defined visually, and how to morphologically translate images. This poster uses the smallest unit of a 2d grid to construct 3d typography.
- introducing an MFA colleague
“Translation Project” is a website prototype to self-publish my translation on art theory and history. Textual tanslation is a driving force for me to read, curate, and write. Many relatively recent books on the arts and humanities have not been translated into Chinese, and some of them I find extremely worth reading so that I want to curate a space to share them with others. Also, I am curious about what is at stake when my amateur translation takes advantage of the immediacy of online publication: does mistranslation become a deliberate message between the lines?
Moved by the story of my friends, I created this abstract illustration / animation project for my minor thesis, in order to show my support for love and equality. The story is also dedicated to anyone who ever struggles to make things happen.
There was once a town where balls were paired with sticks, and every pair followed the rule with no exception. However, two balls secretly fell in love, which was considered extremely rebellious. They escaped to reject the orthodox beliefs of their families. Finally, they managed to create a new world where any shape can choose to be with any other.
A research paper about design thinking.
“Reading List For You and Me”, is a poster series installed on each floor of the art school to collect responses from people about their favorite books. This project is based on my anxiety of experiencing fragmented reading. The goal was to break the traditional canon of the departments and build a collaborative reading list by and for us; the results are anonymous and democratic.
After the responses were collected, I designed book covers for each of them.
Event poster designed for the Chi(na)-Chat forum.
Event poster designed for USC Roski School of Art and Design annual student exhibition.