Flowing to Unsettle – work by Ph.D. candidate Yujie Gao

Gao Yujie is an interdisciplinary media artist and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia. Her generative participatory performance work studies the materiality of duration and explores the elasticity of space and time in rule-based interactive environments.

Learn more about Gao’s work on her website.


Artist Statement:

Unsettling is home,
life is improvisation,
the present is not future enough to live with.

Flowing to Unsettle invites participants to explore the elasticity of experiential time through a durational performance that takes place over six weeks in the Project Gallery at the Alternator.

As a Chinese media artist, performer, and researcher working in Canada, Gao Yujie uses time as a primary artistic material. Through performative actions such as drawing with different timeframes, her work delves into the essence of experiential temporality, both physically, digitally, and interculturally, examining how it can be stretched, compressed, and reconfigured in ways that challenge our taken-for-granted notion of time. Her research focuses on how performative computational art can inhabit and evoke different sensations of time, and how we can collectively hold space while experiencing individualized temporal perceptions. The central ideas are the concept of flow and a sense of wandering in relation to time and how these ‘states of being’ affect our perceptions.

Flowing to Unsettle is the final phase of a PhD research-creation project at UBC Okanagan initiated in 2020. In the previous phases Yujie has performed in a total of 72 livestreams, repeatedly implementing the same improvisation prompt ‘fill a canvas from empty to full’ with variables like duration, materials, platforms, and scales. For the first time ever, through her six-week-long performance at the Alternator, Yujie will use the exhibition space as her canvas, performing every day, collaborating with a variety of technologies and inviting participants to engage with their own temporal perceptions in an embodied experience where they are encouraged to slow down, reflect, and connect with the environment. The process of being – including thinking, wandering, playing, making, failing, problem-solving, and reflecting – forms the ‘whole’ of the work. The work itself is in the process. The performance will be broadcasted and recorded. By performing extensively for six weeks, she is also questioning what defines the boundaries between art time, machine time and life time and how they intertwine with each other.

The subthemes explored in Flowing to Unsettle include accumulation and decay, boredom and freedom, repetition and variation, rules and autonomy, endurance and intuition and how each aspect shapes our time perspective. By creating an open-ended live setting, Yujie invites multiple perceptions of time to coexist and foster meaningful shared experiences that celebrate uniqueness and differences. In doing so, she hopes to open up new possibilities for artistic expression of understanding and relating to time and to deliver this message for the audience:

“Take your time.”

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