Art comes to life through student collaboration and partnership with the Arts Center – cialisdfr
Art comes to life through student collaboration and partnership with the Arts Center
Art comes to life through student collaboration and partnership with the Arts Center

Loren Yuehan Wang ’25 is one of four student curators whose projects on the history of student artistic practice at Wesleyan, “SUM OF ITS PARTS,” are on display in the Class of 1928 Vitrines, located on the first floor of the library, on April 21. Wang’s mixed media works are on display in the exhibition “Explode and Network: A Somatic Archive of Trans-Pacific Movement” in the College of East Asian Studies Gallery at the Mansfield Freeman Center through May 25.

“These two feel quite connected,” Wang said of their work at the two archives. “This is a new opportunity for the future.”

A prolific young artist, Wang has more work for the Wesleyan community to enjoy. Their current work Exploding and Netting is a response to what they found in the art collection and archives. This involved combining a floor covered with 15 buckets of dirt collected from the banks of the Connecticut River near the brownstone quarries in Portland, placed under a video projection of Wang’s filmed travels, including ocean voyages and railroad trips in New York, Utah , New Mexico and California.

“It’s a lot of physical labor,” they said of digging and hauling the dirt in their car for four days. Other videos in the exhibit include Wang’s friends reading documents from the archives while Wang falls asleep on their bed.

Artistic collaboration

Wang’s works in the exhibition were curated by Xiran Tan ’24 and Yijing Lai ’24 as part of a training in curatorial practice led by Exhibitions Manager Rosemary Lennox and Associate Director of Visual Arts Benjamin Chaffee ’00. Tan and Lai put together their proposal for an exhibition in September 2023 and initially approached Wang in October 2023 about creating works for the exhibition about immigration, the university’s history and memory, and what is truth and what is fiction.

Tan wanted to explore the hidden history at Wesleyan. She found gaps in the archives and that many of the documents were not authored by people from China. “We wanted to present the perspective of Chinese international students,” Tan said. She said Wang’s works touch on many themes such as intimacy, belonging and migration that may not be documented as much in archival collections because it is such a personal experience. “I think holding this public exhibition to show the intimate understanding of the Chinese national perspective or experience is really valuable,” Tan said.

Lai said collaboration is essential to their research. “Curatorial is definitely something I keep thinking about,” Lai said of her possible graduate studies in the future.

Chaffee and Lennox guided the students through the process of creating Wang’s first exhibition, giving them the structure and framework to develop their curatorial ideas, but also the space and room to complete the work over the course of a semester. “I feel like the balance is really hard to maintain,” Wang said.

“This is the first time we’ve done it,” Lennox said of the lesson. “It was a pilot and an experiment.”

The Exploding and Netting exhibition raised questions about the boundaries between curatorial and artistic work when performance and installation are involved. “They were pretty inconsistent in their project together,” Chaffee said, noting that watching the students go through the process was instructive for him. “There’s no clear road map for that.”

Wang said the exhibit is an invitation for visitors to think about their own community. “What can they do to reorganize their social structure or relational dynamics to reach a more autonomous space or a more inclusive and open engagement with people?” Wang asked. Wang will hold two film screenings and talks about their work at their house on March 29 and May 2 at 4:30 p.m.

Artistic partnership with the Center for the Arts

At the same time last fall, Wang worked on the development of the “Tunnel Fever: Working in Unclaimed Dimensions” display in consultation with Center for the Arts Director Joshua Lubin-Levy ’06 and Dietrich, Associate University Librarian for Unique Collections, and University Archivist Amanda Nelson. Wang was a student in the Lubin-Levy DANC 212 course “Composition Across the Arts: Theory and Practice of Interdisciplinary Curating.”

Lubin-Levy said the students developed projects that used the Arts Center’s past to envision a new future for the arts at Wesleyan. “Lauren was really interested in how they saw the tunnels used by the students as a space that was connected to the arts departments, but quite a bit outside of them,” Lubin-Levy said of the activities that stemmed from the students’ research that could not or it won’t happen during class. Lubin-Levy said the educational focus is for students to come up with their own ideas and then engage their peers in a collaborative development process.

Wang focused on existing archival content about the tunnels for SUM OF ITS PARTS, including video work by Aidan Champeau ’23, documentation of the 2019 immersive theater experience This Between Shadow by guest instructor Tom Pearson, senior music project from Matthew Valadez ’08 and a 1997 poem The Wesleyan Argus about the tunnels by Tamar Willner ’00.
Wang also included a poster for the December 2023 “Instrument—Body” performance in the tunnels by visiting assistant professor of music and cellist Ethan Philbrick and artist and performer Justin Wong. Wang took the Philbrick Seminar in 2023.

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