Artist Wu Tsang Reveals the Portable Studio Setup That Allows Her to Make Art From Anywhere in the World
We caught up with the artist while she was preparing her take on "Moby Dick."
Many visitors passing through the Venice Biennale slowed to a halt in front of a mesmerizing work by the artist Wu Tsang. Installed outdoors on a 52-foot LED screen above the water inside two picturesque 16th-century arches in the Arsenale, a space called the Gaggiandre, visitors to the secluded spot often became transfixed by the piece.
Known for her cross-disclipinary work that straddles narrative and documentary film, as well as live performance and video installations, Wu Tsang is currently showing a new artwork, Of Whales, as part of Cecilia Alemani’s main exhibition, “The Milk of Dreams.”
The latest iteration of an ongoing project inspired by Herman Melville’s maritime epic Moby Dick, it displays a six-hour loop of phantasmagoric subaquatic sequences that explore the ocean as a site of cosmology, and reimagines the story of the great American novel from below, giving us the whale’s perspective.
We caught up with the artist while she was preparing for the exhibition to talk about the biggest challenges she faced, and the inspirational powers of the humble nap.
Can you send us a snap of the most indispensable item(s) in your studio and tell us why you can’t live without it?
Here is a pic from color-correcting my feature film Moby Dick remotely at my kitchen table at 2 a.m. because the colorist was in L.A. I guess having a portable setup is the most important thing to me because my working space is always transforming and I like it that way.
When it comes to planning for your presentation in Venice, what is the studio task on your agenda this week that you are most looking forward to?
Weekly Zooms with Albyon Studio in Paris, which was creating the VR for my artwork.
What was the main to-do of your last site visit to Venice?
I was mostly concerned about the sound because it was such an unusual space with all the water, so I brought a little speaker to test recordings of the horn players that I collaborated with, and we created the score based mainly on these tests.
What was the biggest challenge in preparing for the Venice Biennale?
The scale of this artwork was huge: six hours of VR real-time video on a LED screen, 32 channels of audio. It was impossible to fully grasp until we finished installing it.
Is there a picture you can send of your work in progress?
When you feel stuck while preparing for a show, what do you do to get unstuck?
Getting stuck is an essential part of the process that I have learned to value and cope with by taking a nap or a walk. Tomorrow is always a new day.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?
I admire simplicity in an artwork. I don’t think I ever despise art; if I don’t like something I don’t pay attention to it.
What are you looking at while you work? Share your view from behind the canvas or computer—wherever you spend the most time.
I spend most of my time in transit (hotels, trains, planes), so this image seemed fitting.
What is one film, piece of writing, or other artwork that inspired you most in preparing for Venice?
Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
What’s your favorite hideaway to eat, drink, or to take a break in Venice?
My installation site, the Gaggiandre, has the most amazing pier in the center that most people don’t realize is open access—it’s a great spot for a picnic.
Wu Tsang, Of Whales, supported by VIVE Arts, is on view as part of “The Milk of Dreams,” curated by Cecilia Alemani through November 27, 2022, in Venice.
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