Reflective Response: Works by Mohau Modisakeng and Hua Jin
Passage is comprised of three videos filmed horizontally, projected on the walls of a dark room. Each projection is roughly the same size and a few feet taller than the average person. Each video depicts one figure that is centered in their respective video. There is constant movement in the piece, involving the figures, the boats and the water. The artist uses the strong contrast of black and white but does not make it blinding thanks to the soft lighting used in the filming of the videos. There is a minimalist sound design. Because of the way it is laid out in a small room, there is no way of getting a clear view of the entire piece at once. Each figure is holding an item of great significance to Black history. Being a digital artwork means that it can be reproduced infinitely.
The New White is comprised of twelve plates roughly eight inches in diameter. It is a static piece. Each plate depicts a painted, figurative representations of iconic Chinese scenery in the style of the ancient blue and white porcelain of the Ming dynasty. None of the paintings are centered. They fade unto the side of the plate but never go over the rim of the plate.
Both artworks were made in 2017 and touch on the loss of identity and culture due to outside influences. They can both be seen as encapsulating the history of the people that made them while mixing aspects of the past and present. They use techniques and clothing from the past with modern video technology and mass production. I would say they have a similar style since they both evoke a powerful dreamlike feeling.
I chose these two works because my feelings upon seeing them were stronger than my reactions to the rest of the artworks in the exhibition. While I found many of the other works beautiful and interesting, these two stood out due to the feeling of melancholy and dread they invoked in me. The works have contrasting ways of bringing forth these emotions. Passage achieved this in a more obvious way: by drowning the subjects in dark waters. I remember the sound dragging me into the piece. There was an oppressive minimalism to the sound design that sucked the air out of the room. I felt uncomfortable and did not want to make a sound. The entire thing felt like a dream-like state with a sense of longing for the past. The New White conjured similar feelings with its use of dark blue blurring into white. I felt like I was looking at old memories that I wanted to hold on to but that had eroded away with the passage of time.
Wall text for Mohau Modisakeng, Passage, 2017. The Arts of One World, Permanent Collection, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal.
Wall text for Hua Jin, The New White, 2017, The Arts of One World, Permanent Collection, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal.