Residency at I-Park Foundation in East Haddam, Connecticut, USA
I went to I-Park in November and was charmed by the fallen leaves. They are mundane, yet they are all different. They decide when to fall and where to fall. Together they form a blanket for trees to grow better next year. One day I was walking on the trails and noticed sunlight coming through the holes and veins on the leaf. I realized that every leaf is a universe or world of its own.
I. Leaf Date
One night in the studio, I pointed my phone flashlight to a leaf and rotated it in my hand. The shadows on the wall made cinema. So, I thought I should make a mechanism where two leaves go on a date and dance with each other.
II. Leaf Swing Chair
I rode on chair swings when I was a child (and teenager). In Chinese it's called 飞椅, meaning "flying chair". I cannot remember how this idea of making a chair swing for leaves first came to me. I just knew that I wanted to make it, just like I also wanted to make a pin ball machine with tree branches. After blabbering and complaining to my fellow residents about not being able to make the wheels function smoothly for several days, I decided to give it one last shot, cut my last wheel the day before open studio, and it worked!
III. Life of a Leaf
Fascinated by the veins and holes in the leaf, I wanted to construct my own version of this leaf universe in the form of a boat-sized leaf. In my initial proposal, I wanted it to eventually sink in the pond, so I would only use natural materials I could find at I-Park. I made dowels out of small branches and didn’t use screws or nails to connect the branches. But later when I wanted to find tree sap to attach the leaves, I realized the season had passed. I compromised and used manmade glue and decided not to sink the leaf in the pond.
For several days the big leaf lay on a big table in my studio. As I attached fake limbs to the central branch, I thought of anatomy and realized how absurd and unnecessary it was to add limbs to things that didn’t ask for my interference. Yet I still put an IV drip on the side of the desk to see how the leaf and I both felt. I realized that it was not right to "save" the leaf/tree. Trees are smart enough and have their own system of living. So after a few days, I took the IV drip out.
I kept building the veins and connecting some of them within the big leaf. During the process, I was thinking about how the veins would breathe, how information, energy, and feelings were conducted through the veins, and what was the point of doing anything.
At the end of the open studio, I walked the leaf to the side of the pond where I did the most philosophizing during the residency. On the way, I sang "The Road Not Taken" to the leaf and to myself, and eventually let it rest by the pond. By the next morning, most of the leaves on the sculpture had fallen off, leaving the branches and veins by themselves.