The exhibition Path of Entry was to have opened at WMA this spring, but due to the temporary closure of the museum, it was postponed until next year. The group show, featuring artists from around the world and guest curated by Chintia Kirana, was inspired by the poem “Remember” by U.S. poet laureate Jo Harjo, and features work dealing with the environment, the process of reflection, and remembering.
Below is a short interview with Path of Entry artist, Joe Ren, the second in a series with all the artists from the show. Originally from Tianjin, China, Ren is one of several international artists represented in the exhibition. Be sure to check out his takeover of WMA’s Instagram account on June 4th!
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live and work?
A. My name is Joe Ren, I am teaching Digital Arts and Design at Dakota State University. I work and live in Madison, South Dakota.
Q. How would you describe your artistic practice? What medium(s) do you work with principally?
A. My work is about investigating the relationship between reality and representation found in the tension between humans and nature. Most of my works are digital media such as video, animation, and video games. All the elements in my work are my digital collection from TV, the internet, social media, and images I take, which I found that have strong connections with the digital age we live in.
Q. How did you get involved with the Path of Entry exhibition? Tell us about the work you’ve contributed and how it relates to the central themes of the show.
A. Chintia told me she is preparing to curate an exhibition and her ideas about it. She saw my new work on my website and we think it just fits with the theme of the show. The work I am included in the show is a new series of mine that started in 2019. This series of work is inspired by a documentary about plastic pollution I watched. In this series of work, I use plastic bags to create the movement of water and a fantastical world, where all true realities are concealed beneath the surface of beauty; where something has been hiding. The work emphasizes my environmental concern and greed, waste, and desire inherent in our modern life. We believe in what we want to believe. We create something else for ourselves in order to easier to deal with what actually is.
Q. What have you been doing to stay inspired during these times of social isolation?
A. This pandemic changes so many things in our lifestyle. I usually travel a lot this time of year to different places to visit friends, get inspiration, take photos, and footages for my work. Apparently, it won’t happen this year. However, I think it brings people more closer into the virtual world. We’ve done so many zoom meetings and facetime. I got invited to a virtual party of graduation as alumni to celebrate and cheer them up which I think was really beautiful.
Q. How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your schedule for the upcoming year? What’s next for you?
A. I haven’t gone out that much since the social isolation. In this digital age, it’s easy to keep myself updated on what happens. I always get inspired by the news, shows, and images. For what next for me, I am co-writing a book about the experiment on digital media in art, and hopefully will complete and publish next year.
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