Bio

Yizhou Aiden Sun is a photographer and video artist who reflects upon their experiences of their British-Chinese cultural identity, queerness, and mental health. They use still lifes to examine the process of identity construction, using objects as symbols or metaphors, often with plants standing in the place of a human presence. Other times they use slow-paced video as a visual meditation, to explore the spiritual side of the themes they reflect upon.

Xiāng Jiāo (香蕉/Banana) - Series

 

Artist Statement

My work explores my cultural identity as British and Chinese, and the construction and reconstruction of this identity that occurs because of my experiences with racism and a lack of representation within the UK. This has caused my identity to be unstable and precarious, due to being between two cultures with a sense of not belonging in either. I symbolise this through still life constructions, specifically using bananas as British-born Chinese people are called this due to the notion that we are "white on the inside and yellow on the outside," a notion that works to exclude us from both Chinese and British culture. Colour plays a prominent role within my work with reference to the perceived queerness of bright colours, and the cultural significance of the colours red and blue. The COVID-19 pandemic gave me the space to reflect on my experiences, but has also shown that these conversations need to be had publicly, not just within myself. It has been great to see others speak up about the racism the BESEA community face and I hope my work can add to the conversation.

An anthropomorphic banana skin separated from banana flesh and hanging from one broken half of the banana flesh with legs touching a table. The banana flesh is suspended from knotted red and blue rope, in front of a black background.
'Xiāng Jiāo Rén', Digital photograph (2020)
A banana skin and banana flesh separated from each other. Both suspended from knotted red and blue rope in front of a black background.
'Xiāng Jiāo No. 1', Digital photograph (2020)
A banana partially peeled and bent at an odd angle, suspended by knotted red and blue rope in front of a black background.
'Xiāng Jiāo No. 2', Digital photograph (2020)
A partially peeled nectarine with banana flesh squashed on top, suspended by blue and red knotted rope in front of a black background.
'Xiāng Jiāo No. 3', Digital photograph (2020)
A banana partially peeled and the exposed banana flesh squashed and broken apart, suspended by knotted red and blue rope in front of a black background.
'Xiāng Jiāo No. 4', Digital photograph (2020)
A banana skin separated from banana flesh and dangling from one broken half of the banana flesh, with the banana flesh being suspended from knotted red and blue rope, in front of a black background.
'Xiāng Jiāo No. 5', Digital photograph (2020)
A partially peeled nectarine with a banana skin hanging over it, suspended by blue and red knotted rope in front of a black background.
'Xiāng Jiāo No. 6', Digital photograph (2021)
The Ritual of Kù’er Líng (酷儿灵/Queer Spirit) - Selection from Series

 

This series explores the same themes as Xiāng Jiāo (see Artist Statement) along with spirituality, as a documentation of a personal ritual – a ritual of reflection and healing.

Here is a selection of seven photographs from the thirty six of the full series.

The full work can be seen below as a video, made to be projected.

A peeled banana with the peel laying over one tip of the banana over a black background.
'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng No. 6', Digital photograph (2021)
A peeled banana with the peel laying over the banana and encasing it on both sides, with one red and one blue rope crossing it, all on top of a black background and lit with red and blue light.
'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng No. 12', Digital photograph (2021)
A peeled banana with the peel laying over the banana and encasing it on both sides, with a red and blue rope knotted together and placed on top of the banana. This is over a black background and is lit with red and blue light.
'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng No. 14', Digital photograph (2021)
A peeled banana with the peel laying over the banana and encasing it on both sides. A blue rope and a red rope tied together with a decorative knot holds the banana skin to the flesh on top of a black background.
'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng No. 15', Digital photograph (2021)
A peeled banana with the peel laying over the banana and encasing it, with red and blue rope tying the banana skin to the flesh, other knots digging into the flesh and a decorative knot pulled to the side to expose the banana's flesh. At one tip of the banana it has been deeply stamped into and at the other end rests a stone stamp. This is on top of a black background and lit with red and blue light.
'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng No. 26', Digital photograph (2021)
A banana peel laying over the flesh of a banana that has been damaged by tied rope and stamped. Part of the peel curls around a stone stamp. This is on top of a black background and lit by red and blue light.
'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng No. 35', Digital photograph (2021)
A banana peel laying beside the flesh of a banana that has been damaged by tied rope and stamped, with a red and blue rope tied together with a decorative knot laying on the other side of the banana flesh. Part of the peel curls around a stone stamp. This is on top of a black background and lit by red and blue light.
'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng No. 36', Digital photograph (2021)
'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng', Video, 10 minutes 2 seconds (2021)
The Ritual of Kù’er Líng (酷儿灵/Queer Spirit) - Full Work

 

Please watch fullscreen and in the dark, if possible.

Xiāng Jiāo (香蕉/Banana) - Exhibition Proposal

 

For this series, I have two different ways of fragmenting the work for display, the fragmentation acting as a further manifestation of instability. The first is through splitting the image into yellow, blue, and red layers and printing each layer onto a piece of acetate (see 'Xiāng Jiāo Rén', Exhibition mock-up). They can then be hung one in front of the other with a gap between. This would mean that the layers would not line up perfectly, and the image would shift and change as the viewer moves around it. If hung in front of a window, sunlight shining through may throw colours onto the floor or walls. This would be used for Xiāng Jiāo Rén, Xiāng Jiāo No. 3 and Xiāng Jiāo No. 6.

I actually think the best way to display work like this would be to have it on a table and allow viewers to physically move the layers, but with the current pandemic I feel this is not a safe way to exhibit the work.

The photograph 'Xiāng Jiāo Rén' split into blue, red and yellow layers, hung in mid-air one in front of the other in a white room.
'Xiāng Jiāo Rén', Exhibition mock-up, 11.7 x 16.5 x 8 inches (2021)
Six A3 pieces of paper creating one full image together, suspended in mid-air within a white-walled room.
'Xiāng Jiāo No. 5', Exhibition mock-up, Front view, 35.1 x 33 x 60 inches (2021)
Six A3 pieces of paper creating one full image together, suspended in mid-air within a white-walled room.
'Xiāng Jiāo No. 2', Exhibition mock-up, Back view, 35.1 x 33 x 60 inches (2021)

The second way of fragmentation is through printing the images at the size 31.5 x 31.5 inches over 6 sheets of A3 paper (see images above). I have been playing with printing onto thin newsprint for this as I feel the fragility adds to the sense of instability and precariousness in the work. However, if this is not practical in terms of hanging, perhaps a thin fabric would also give a similar feeling. Fragmenting the work in this way allows for the work to be hung misaligned. This misalignment means that no matter where one stands, the image will never fit together the way most people would expect it to. This fragmentation and misalignment would also allow viewers to walk between the fragments of the images, turning the experience of a 2-dimensional image into a  3-dimensional experience. The images Xiāng Jiāo No. 1, Xiāng Jiāo No. 2, Xiāng Jiāo No. 4 and Xiāng Jiāo No. 5 could be displayed this way, with No. 1 and No. 4 together, and No. 2 and No. 5 together.

Zine & Risograph Print
A bitten peach hanging from one blue rope and one red rope, one with a Celtic knot and one with a Pan Chang knot. Risograph print using Med Blue and Red ink.
'Untitled', Risograph print, 11.7 x 16.5 (2020)
The photograph 'Xiāng Jiāo Rén' split into blue, red and yellow layers, printed onto tracing paper and folded into a zine.
'Xiāng Jiāo Rén', Zine printed on tracing paper, 5.8 x 8.3 inches (2021)
'Xiāng Jiāo Rén', Video of zine, 5.8 x 8.3 inches (2021)

I produced this zine (see 'Xiāng Jiāo Rén', Zine & 'Xiāng Jiāo Rén', Video of zine) as a way to allow people to physically play with the split colour layers of my images safely, since allowing multiple people to touch one exhibited work during the current pandemic seemed unsafe. With a zine, each person can have their own copy instead of touching the same one.

I also did some experimenting with risograph printing the split colour layers (see 'Untitled', Risograph print). Due to the worsening of the pandemic in December, I have been unable to continue this experimentation but hope to pick it back up when I can.

The Ritual of Kù’er Líng (酷儿灵/Queer Spirit) - Exhibition Proposal

 

I propose for this work to be exhibited as a projection; the slideshow format of the work mimics the transitory nature of the depicted ritual, as does the immaterial nature of projections.

Alongside this projection, there could be a live performance of the depicted ritual at the opening of the exhibition, with the leftover products staying on a table/altar throughout the time of the exhibition, lit by two lanterns, one red and one blue (see 'The Ritual of Kù'er Líng', Exhibition mock-up). This performance could also turn into something else through collaboration with performance artists exploring similar topics/themes.

Projection of 'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng' behind curtains with a table in front. A black cloth covers the table and on the table is a physical recreation of 'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng' with red and blue lanterns.
'The Ritual of Kù’er Líng', Exhibition mock-up (2021)