Lombard Freid Projects is pleased to present The School, Nina Yuen’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Yuen’s hauntingly beautiful films are presented within a tactile installation that encapsulates the artist’s multifaceted imagination and transforms the traditional viewing experience.
Yuen, originally from Hawaii and currently based in New Jersey, mines the pasts of anonymous and celebrated characters to create poetic, non-linear narratives. She combines fictionalized personal memories and various disparities in accounts of the past to create an authentic alternate-reality; weaving assorted truths into her seductive monologues to lure the viewer in. Yuen fully embraces her creations; living within her self-constructed sets and adopting the conventions, behavior, and dress of these worlds in order to exemplify her characters. The dedication is evident in her work, infusing each video with a nuance of heartbreakingly honesty.
The School features five videos, made in the past two years, which grapple with universally complex themes of memory, childhood, rites of passage and loss while playing with the dichotomy between fantasy and tangibility. Through a diaristic series of events and original voice, these familiar themes are reexamined as Yuen narrates the short films using a varied collection of found texts and original material. Juanita, 2011, presents several different accounts of death and the inevitability of its arrival. The multiple stories are undeniably personal and conversely universal. This is also true for David, 2010, where Yuen fruitlessly perform a series of affirmations and incantations; rituals meant to connect an individual with a larger unseen whole.
Mr. President, 2012, is particularly chilling as it weighs the individual rituals for coming of age to the collective transition of society into a new era. The video, which pulls from many letters to past presidents, becomes timeless and topical when placed within the current election and state of the nation. While filling in the rosy cheeks of a young girl in a vintage photograph with a red marker Yuen’s soft voice whispers, “Whatever the world is going to do to her, it has started to do” the viewer knows that ‘she’ is not one particular child but a stand in for all children now grown. Listening to the whispered cascade of thoughts, one can feel the future slipping away.
Heather Who, 2012, and The School, 2011, feature Yuen’s students from an elite private prep school. A full cast of teen girls portrays a single protagonist in Heather Who; they act out a symphonic series of introductions as a single voice narrates the film. Their stories illustrate the way the act of naming brands an individual to memory, and the complications this may lead to. The School, for which the show is named, beautifully unfolds onto a moment when the students turn to the teacher with a question that the teacher cannot answer. The teacher is forced to go beyond the lesson plan to inadvertently teach the students about death and the misfortunes of the world.
The multiple stories are shown side-by-side, filling the gallery. Each piece is so fluently edited that even amongst the informality of the language and sharp edits, the various voiceovers seem to deliver a single stream of consciousness. Reoccurring actions and symbols, such as outstretched arms or the view from a bridge, appear in multiple works; confirming that these films exist on the same mystical plane.
Recent exhibitions include; Lucid Dreaming, Stedelijk Museum, Netherlands; Moon Life Store, 8th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai, China; Performance, Montevideo, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Children’s Biennial, Kaap, Utrecht, Netherlands; Junk, Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow, Russia; Performance, Arti, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Never Done This Before, Delicatessen Zeeburg, Amsterdam, Netherlands