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The House of the Solitary  (2020) 

3D animation, Multi-channel video with sound, Writing; Infinite Loop

The House of the Solitary combines poems, 3D rendering, texts sculpted in VR, and distorted soundtracks of airline on-hold music. It is derived from a lock-down experience in Berlin due to the pandemic in 2020. The prolonged stay and multiple flight cancelations put one in a peculiar liminal situation, as the initial brief stop-over evolved into an absurdity of time and space. During the lock-down, I've spent most of the time indoors instead of going out to explore the unfamiliar city. As time goes, the temporary accommodation became customary while the surroundings remained utterly foreign. This created a strong feeling of displacement and solitude. During the process, I developed intimacy with the objects stranded together with me, which eventually led to the creation of the work. 

 

In the animations, the objects are converted to “characters” who are repeatedly inflated and deflated. They carry the riddles of our current time and provokes thoughts on an alternative future.

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An egg-shaped chocolate I bought at Easter,

                                                                                        Sits silently on my desk.

                                I didn’t eat him, I just let him hang in there.

                                                                                                                For quite a while, I almost forgot about him.

                                                                                        I didn't notice how the sunlight hit him straight,

                                        Or how the heat made him start to melt.

 

                                                                                                                         He just looks at me passively, unable to revolt.

My old aluminum Moka pot

                                                  Refines caffeine when squealing.

           I placed him on a glowing burner,

                                                                 Watched him suffer to bring me pleasure.

 

                                                                       Boiling water flows in his veins,

                                           Strong pressure accumulates in him.

                                                                                                Soon his glossy paunch will turn duller and duller.

                    Thin blood oozes from his belly button,

     Raging respiration bursts his mouth open,

                                     His breath turns into a drizzle that can burn.

                                                         Looks like he’s about to crack with all his anger.

                                                                       But I cleaned his gasket this morning so he won’t squawk any longer.

                                                                My gagged friend, a naughty whistleblower,

                                                                                                                   Please, don’t disturb my upstairs neighbor's sleep.

Six canceled                                                                                 bookings

                              Make six journeys                                                               indefinite 

 

          Six buttons on a well-worn                                              keyboard 

                                     Trigger the same-old                                                  bleep

 

                                                   Six rooms of                              vacancy, 

                                     Now merge into                                                          one House of Solitude

 

                                                    Press “one” if you                   agree

                                                                        To put the world on hold,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              To put the world on hold!

                                    American Spirit

                                                                                                                        - it’s going to get me killed for sure.

My annoying sneeze came again to harass me.

                                            I took out my bottle of nasal spray,

                                            To try to ease the unstoppable sneeze.

                                                                   But the nozzle fired like a lighter when I squeezed,

                                                                                                                         So I dropped it down in surprise. 

 

                  The bottle of nasal spray

                                                                       Spits out flames and started this uprising suddenly.

                                            My poor nose,

                                                                                     A distorted nose with rhinitis.

                                            Now who will be here to tame it?

 

                              My nose has been noisy since then, 

                                                                                      keeps bellowing with the continuous sneeze. 

                                             Lacking the curb of a nasal spray, 

                                                                                                                               it seems to be self-conscious.

 

                                              Out there, 

                                                             I can imagine the countless other noses of various colors.

                                                                                                                   All rid of the restraint from their masters.

                                                                                          Now I had totally lost my nose,

                                                                                                            Just Like St. Petersburg’s Kovalyov.

                                                                      And the bottle that I used to suppress the sneeze,

                                                                                                            Was also taken away by the nose. 

                                                                                                                               Both of them have disappeared ever since.

Once again, the strange clothes hanger comes to visit.

                                                               Every time he just stays in that corner.

                           His powder-coated body looks tough to break,

                                                                                                                 His limbs stretch as I get closer,

                                                                      His arms flap like a happy mallard,

                                                                                     His two legs stand up like an Odradek.

                                                                                                     But, as always, when I try to talk to him, he remains silent.

* Verkehrsbetriebe [DE] noun, plural: transport services

The mighty M29 is a reflection of the German precision and its flawless “Verkehrsbetriebe”. Its unique double-decker buses always pull over at my door when I need it, to take me to go about my errands.  

 

Day by day, the glossy yellow bodies on the wheels shuttle through the city, just like the well-disciplined worker bees buzzing past us. The digits on its odometers accumulate, to carry the passengers to their happiness. Its tall window panels are dark-tinted but still shine, to echo the grandiose Berlin view surrounding us. I feel it’s stout chassis hug the road so smoothly, even on the streets filled with potholes. The “Mighty” 29 is surely proud of its BVG emblems. Stop by stop, it has never failed to compliment my good impressions on the Deutsch efficiency.

 

However, my fantasy was shattered this afternoon…

 

As usual, I was waiting for the M29 to come to pick me up. But instead of the familiar double-decker, I was surprised to find two single-deckers pulled over. The two buses followed one another when getting closer, looking like one gigantic, yellow worm occupying half the length of Glogauer Street. 

 

“How exact!” I shouted in mind. "Such German precision! Today, they must have run out of the double-deckers, so they sent two regular ones in order to accommodate all the passengers’ needs!” One plus one equals two. The simple math once again proved my impression of Germans… until the M29 dropped me off to meet with my friend - a Berliner. I told him my intriguing bus encounter. He responded to my discovery in laughter, that the amazing scene I just observed, was only because of the terrible delays by “Verkehrsbetriebe” - the bureaucratic transport services department!

 

See, we all have our stereotypes.  

The House of the Solitary - The Cell Phone (2020) 

Photopolymer 3D printing, Cement casting, QR code; 6 x 3.5 x 2.5 inches

 

The sculpture is a tangible representation of my affect in the video piece “The House of the Solitary.” The shape is extracted from one of the chapters, “The Cell Phone,” of the animations. The sculpture exists in the physical world as an object of retention. Cast in cement, it holds the weight of my experience during the pandemic both conceptually and physically. The heavy emotions from my lock-down are embodied in the concrete form. When displayed, viewers are encouraged to handle the sculpture, and sense its weight with their own bodies, thus allowing the capacity of emotions to be transmitted between bodies. A QR code is engraved on the back of the sculpture, allowing viewers to scan and connect to a poem of this piece.  

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Installation shot, Vanguard Gallery, Shanghai, China, 2021

© 2023 by Frank WANG Yefeng, all rights reserved