YU JI: (Mandarin) The keywords for my four works in the Sigg Prize exhibition are ‘sculpture’ and ‘recycle’. To me, sculpture is more than an orthodox medium for art-making or a form of expression. It encompasses my contemplation of materials, weight, form, and the volume of objects, as well as their relationship with their surroundings.
Recycling is about the relationships between the many materials I use in my practice. For my project over the past two years, I have been on the move, staying temporarily in different cities. How can I travel with my creations? And what must I let go of in the process? I think these considerations reflect a sort of sustainability which sees recycling as a way of life.
As for my artistic practice, I’m interested in natural forms and materials from nature. When I talk about nature, I mean urban nature, a natural environment shaped by our city. I don’t want to go back to the natural environment. I am more intrigued by how, as an ordinary person, I think about planting, ecology, and vegetation and the way I live.
I’ve always felt that stones are symbolic. People project their worship of nature onto stone structures. In cultures and religions across different regions, stones are important symbols. Concrete is made from stone as well. So, these materials and forms are, in fact, related.
Among the four pieces of work, The hammock piece is the most special. Viewers can see the form of a hammock containing construction waste collected around the city. What I made with my hands is the hammock itself. The material I used to weave it is quite flexible. Everything in it was collected and accumulated over the last few months with the help of the museum team from local sites. It is a work created by us together.
This work is closely connected with its surroundings and everyone involved. It has been an interactive experience evoking memories of their everyday environments. All the steel bars used in the larger piece were sourced from demolished residential buildings. When a building is demolished, the way things normally work is the steel bars in the site would be removed and recycled as metal waste. What I did here was recycle the deformed steel bars from the demolition sites. I wanted to keep their existing shapes and make them part of my sculpture.
Those ruins come from our everyday lives, making up the history of the entire city or memories of individuals. I want to get people thinking about our lives and the reality we live in and looking at things that are not entirely new or polished to consider what they mean to us and our lives.
Yu Ji creates sculptures, installations, videos, and performances that take medium and materiality as starting points to create a unique visual language rooted in form, objects, humanity, and the everyday. Whether featuring a cast of a limb or the outline of a body part, the sculptures at the heart of Yu’s practice are amorphous anatomical objects that evoke an almost eerie sense of mechanical disengagement, as if a human body was created and then pilfered. Yu is a skilled narrator of complex relationships between people and things, life and death, and the present and the past. Encountering Yu’s work is a physical experience that sparks memories and ineffable associations. Her creations also remind viewers of their own historicity by prompting them to revisit the relationship between space, body, and time.
In the Sigg Prize 2023 exhibition, Yu examines the impact of the social environment on individual existence through works that feature fragmented body parts made of industrial materials. The parts are restrained in a steel web, tied up, or still encased in their moulds. In one piece, locally collected industrial debris is concealed in a large, rib-shaped hammock. The sculptures’ forms derive from Yu’s continuous study of the muscles of athletes engaged in extreme sports as well as her long-standing fieldwork and archival research on ancient Asian sculptures, including her observations of eroded and damaged works that have weathered centuries of change. Yu’s four independent sculptures of varying sizes jointly depict the fatigue and struggles of people living in today’s urban society.
- Produced by
Moving Image Studio
Kenji Wong Wai Kin, Chan Wing Chi
- Director of Photography
Lau Tsz Hong, Ip Yiu Tung Zachary, Rex Tse, Mak Chi Ho
- Transcript and Translation
- M+ Video Producer
- M+ Curatorial Research
Isabella Tam, Ariadne Long, Chloe Wong
- M+ Text Editing
Amy Leung, LW Lam
- Special Thanks
Yu Ji, Chris Sullivan