Qin Yufen : Sound, Art, and Asian Aesthetics

Qin Yufen, Wind Without Words, sound installation, 2001

Qin Yufen, Wind Without Words, sound installation, 2001

Qin Yufen, a woman sound artist, born in China and based in Germany for many years. With digital techniques to create sound, Qin further develops the poetic power with her sensibilities of classical Chinese icons. (Click below to see her film clip) The visual composition of her works reflects Qin’s early training of water-ink painting before sound creation. With Asian gestures and beyond minority, the sound art made by Qin, a female artist from the East, is to be viewed as enormously enchanting and even mysterious art piece, hence standing out in the global art arena.(Qin Yufen 2001 from Annatina Graf on Youtube)

Many of the contemporary sound artworks are about to explore the hearing culture. But Qin’s sound art emphasizes on the visual aesthetics. Consisting of symbolical Asian materials as bamboo, lotus leaf, rice paper, flute, silk…etc., Qin’s site-specific sound installations present sublime aesthetics which have been compared with classical Asian painting. With her experimental and electronically altered noise, the speakers hidden in her painterly installation sometimes play fragments of Oriental flute note. The memory of her youth in China serves as a vision for the essential element of Qin’s composition. “The Chinese culture is my blood,” said Yufen Qin, “but the Western culture is the air that I breathe.” Not only in her homeland (China), in the West (Germany) have the cultures the artist perceived further highlight the chinoiserie vibe of her art.

In Yutang Chun (Spring of the Jade Yard) (1994), for instance, she hided more than 600 speakers inside of calligraphy papers. These speakers are broadcasting the digitally distorted Chinese opera Yutang Chun. Her new version of Yutang Chun is installed by draping each of the Chinese papers on the hanger, one of her favourite elements which suggest female approach, daily labour and domestic power. Illusion City by the Sea (2001) is Qin’s another work used by hangers as the major material.

Qin Yufen

Qin Yufen, Chan Yuan (Moon Woman), 1998. Exhibited at UB Art Gallery.

In Flute Island (1996), Qin built an Octagon at the old post office in Berlin, where the dome architecture is similar as The Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The Octagon is composed by bamboo tubes. While the viewers walking on the ground, the electronically altered noise of Chinese ancient music is transmitting through the hidden speakers in the bamboo tubes. In Feng He (Lotus in Wind) (1994), she put 10000 round fans made by reeds on the lake. The reeds fan moving by the wind looks like the lotus leaves. The lotus leave is a common theme of Chinese poetry, as of water-ink painting as well. Qin visualizes the Asian classical subject matters into the structure of her sound installation. In “Wind Without Words” (2001), she installed with dozens of fans suspended from the ceiling in side of a bamboo cage. Silence along with meditation is the core of “Wind Without Words”. These works exemplified her ideal of culture, not based on the West to view the East, but the migration to the West enhances her Chinese quintessence.

More than poetic, the vision of Qin’s art is strongly taking up from her individuality. Since 2001, the visible and invisible conflicts between nations and cultures have become more frequent and reflected the globalized disorder after 9/11. In 2001, Qin presented the compelling Beautiful Violence at the Mattress Factory. She installed colourful balloons in-between of the barbed wire. The metaphor is obvious in the contrast to balloons (freedom) with barbed wire (armed suppression). The whole space is filled with the digitalized noise of balloons rubbing together. The key of this work is neither audio nor visual element, but a text written by Qin framed on the wall. This is the memoirs of her early age in China, at the time political campaigns idealized and moralized violence in China; and her observing of the neo-Nazism violent incidents occurred in Germany. She wrote, “Today, in democratic and non-democratic countries alike, violence is on the rise between states, between nationalities, as well as in daily life… ‘beautiful’ violence is the virus of rationalized violence that spreads all over society today. It invades our life through ideology, news media, public education as well as entertainment and consumption in a way that we are not easily aware of.”

Qin Yufen, Beautiful Violence, 2001, ®© Mattress Factory, Ltd.

Qin Yufen, Beautiful Violence, 2001, Mattress Factory, Ltd.

Qin’s art works today signify the shifting paradigm in the art world today. As an Asian woman sound artist with self-consciousness in cultural heritage, Qin examines and challenges the conventional aesthetics. Sound art is not only a digital approach for listening exploration, but, through chinoiserie arranging she offers the viewers an alternative, eastern and female vision of sound art. If Qin’s art was to be viewed only as a chinoiserie, exotic object could be problematic. Quite contrary, with the background of her revolutionary youth in China, Qin delivers more than chinoiserie but the depth of Asian characteristics, as well as her cross-cultural critical thoughts. Not staying on the decorative façade, but her analytically deploying of traditional motifs and elaborating Asian painted style are, therefore, in lieu of a deep and intriguingly persuasive presentation, the Asian aesthetics of Qin’s sound installation.

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9 thoughts on “Qin Yufen : Sound, Art, and Asian Aesthetics

    • Thank you! Qin is indeed an artist who combines traditional Chinese sublime aesthetic with contemporary sound installation practice. I am impressed your posts as well, especially about art in U.K. history. Keep updated!

  1. Pingback: Female sound art noises: Quin Yufen | nnnoises.com

    • Thank you nnnoises! It is rather refreshing to discover the new genres of arts. Being Asian or woman as an artist is not the point (P.C.), but, a good atist can be told by the way they contribute to sound, and new experiment of art as well. I appreciate your devote to it also.

  2. Thanks for coming to my ArtLERT blog if for no other reason than it introduced me to yours. Do you know about a survey of Chinese sound art that opens at Colgate University in a couple of weeks? I just received the press release and, seeing this blog, thought you might be interested.


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