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Digital Artist Jawshing Arthur Liou

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(SOUNDBITE OF BELA FLECK AND THE FLECKTONES’ “BLU-BOP”)

ELLIOT REICHERT: I'm Elliot Reichert, and welcome to Profiles on WFIU. On Profiles, we talk to notable artists, scholars and writers and get to know the stories behind their work. Our guest today is Jawshing Arthur Liou.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKE HOWARD’S “LIMINAL”)

Arthur is an artist with a background in photography, digital media, film and journalism. His projects include a pilgrimage into the sacred mountains of Tibet, a journey through the tsunami-ravaged coastline of Japan and a cinematic collaboration with a brain scientist regarding the connection between endocannabinoids and memory. His most recent work, "House of The Singing Winds," considers the historic TC Steele site in Brown County, Indiana. This three-channel video projection is currently on view at the Eskenazi Museum of Art in Indiana University, Bloomington.

ELLIOT REICHERT: I think I want to begin at the beginning, which is how you became a video artist, if you consider yourself a video artist, your inspiration, a little bit about your journey, basically.

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: I could perhaps start with a metaphor or anecdote about my childhood. I ran away from home when I was 16. In my mother's desperate attempt to find me, she went to a psychic. And the psychic told her that my life could be symbolized as an island. And whichever way I go, I'll end up right at the beginning. So, apparently, I returned home and finished my degree in education as said. But the story about my artistic career is like that experience. It's about many returns and departures. Video was not my initial interest. I was raised in a scholar's family. My grandfather was a poet. And I was trained mostly in writing and eventually developed an interest in journalism. But after - when I went to college, I discover my passion for photography. So I spent a lot of time on image creation at the time. But when I was in college, there is not a photo track. So, reluctantly, I chose video and - television and radio. And I was surprised how fun that was. And I was able to learn the tool very quickly and create dynamic content that I'd never imagined I could. So that was sort of the beginning of my video exposure. And I then worked professionally for four years. And then I was really frustrated by the experience of working in the corporate television company. I decided to come to the United States and study photography. So at the time because the job kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, I try to run away from video as far as I can and focusing on straight photo. That was in the '90s. The digital evolution was everywhere in artistic creation. Reluctantly, again, I picked up the digital tool and then, you know, sort of running away from photography again and rediscover my interest in video. So that is a long sort of path in sort of describing how my interest in video returned to my practice.

ELLIOT REICHERT: Did you ever imagine yourself as a studio artist, as someone who would present their works in galleries and museums? And if so, how did that realization come to pass?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: Well, this is a really interesting question because I was chair at the Department of Studio Art at one point. And there - oftentimes, I talk to my colleagues about how I - how much I admire their work and their talent. And their expertise just - is just so amazing. And I just feel like I was pretending to be an artist at the time. And my wife used to say I'm too normal to be an artist. So that never crossed - it, you know, sort of never crossed my mind in my early life that I will sort of practice as a career. So art training came very late to my life. I don't think I've been to a gallery or museum of contemporary art till I was - I started working in the 20s. When I was very young, I was kind of discovered by my elementary school art teacher that my rendering of a tree root was very unique and interesting. And she tried to offer private tutoring to me, and that was kind of rejected by my parents. So, there were opportunities, but it just wasn't in my personal experience in the early life that this is a potential.

ELLIOT REICHERT: The work of yours that I have seen, which I believe is most of your kind of video oeuvre, is very precise in the way that it conveys a kind of psychological state of mind through the medium of video. And I'm curious how you think about that as an artist, as a video maker, as a filmmaker. How do you arrive at the appropriate sonic and visual effects to produce a kind of - a psychic state of mind, which seems to be important in your work?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: Yeah, I think my training as a journalist really informed this practice. We were trained to be very precise and very efficient about our delivery. And there cannot be an extra word that's unnecessary. So although we don't always make work for the audience - but the ability to control the viewing experience is very important to me. And think - I respect that communication between the work and the audience. So I try to be very precise in a way you describe. But at the same time, there's always a surprise element, be that the sound treatment or the technology or sort of unexpected visual encounter. So those are all the elements that I try to use to create a great ensemble for the audience in a gallery.

ELLIOT REICHERT: That makes a lot of sense.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKE HOWARD’S “SCHLUSSHYMNE”)

ELLIOT REICHERT: You're listening to Profiles on WFIU. I'm Elliot Reichert. Our guest today is Jawshing Arthur Liou. Arthur is an artist with a background in photography, digital film, media and journalism.

And in the piece that you did for the Eskenazi Museum, "House of The Singing Winds," you are essentially re-combining various visual and textual narratives to tell the story of an important historic site in Brown County. And there's a level of joy and happiness in that piece that I think is really inspiring. But there's also a little bit of sense of loss in the sense that Selma Steele, the wife of T. C., is reflecting on their years pioneering in Brown County through the back lens, through the end. And so, I'm curious. I know there's a bit of loss and mourning in your work. And I wonder if you could tell us more about that as a source of inspiration or as a source of questioning how you arrive at your subjects and if that's significant to you.

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: To answer that question, we have to go back to 2009. I was invited to submit a proposal for a public art project for Wisher Hospital or its rebuilding. The hospital is now the Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis. The crowning jewel of the hospital's art collection is the four-season mural of T. C. Steele. So they can't stop talking about it. And we were certainly impressed by the tour. So I was very motivated to make that proposal about the four seasons, about T. C. Steele. And I made a trip to the house - their Brown County house. I was immediately fascinated by the house itself. The texture in the room and all the historic evidence of their living is just fascinating. So that was kind of the original observation I had. Although the proposal did not make it in 2009, it did plant a seed in my mind about this project. Ten years later, I was invited by David Brennaman, director of the Eskenazi Museum, to envision a new time-based media gallery. And the gallery is - very fittingly had three-wall projection and talking about creating a high-end projection system for the room. And I know this is going to be a technically challenging project that I have to put my hands on every day. So as opposed to - my previous projects usually take me away from Indiana, away from Bloomington, I decided to work on local subject matter. And the idea of the T. C. Steele house return to this process. And I started working on the "House" ever since 2008. That's how I kind of started working on this project. It's a combination of work that is made specifically for the new space at the museum and an overlap of my past experience. So as I return to this site and photograph the house and the surrounding of the house, I was researching the story of T. C. and Selma Steele. I was very influenced by Selma's own writing in the book "House of The Singing Winds" and the introduction written by Rachel Perry about Selma's perspective. And I realized that although the house is named after T. C. Steele, the house as a project really was Selma's from the very beginning. And her vision for the gardens, for the house itself and for her own role as a pioneer woman in Brown County in the 1920s and the '30s and the '40s was a very inspiring story. So I try to portray the very excitement of then moving to this part of the world that is really disconnected from everywhere else but also the life of Selma's after T. C. Steele's passing. She stayed there for another 20 years. And I can just kind of imagine her persistence as a loyal partner was trying to preserve Steele's legacy and his work. And leaving the institution as a - most important resources for cultural influence in Indiana. She didn't leave the house to her children. She was very decisive about donating the house to a public institution. There was a negotiation of it transferring to IU in 1939 and '40 under President Herman Wells. That didn't work out due to its bureaucracy. And, eventually, the house was donated to the state, which I thought was a very fitting conclusion because it's very well managed right now. But, oftentimes, I think about, you know, what if the house ends up being part of IU? So being able to bring the house back to the museum in a metaphoric way is a very important gesture for me.

ELLIOT REICHERT: The story of Selma and that property and that land and their home is compelling in and of itself. But a huge amount of that is, as you say, the fact that after T. C. passed away, Selma was a steward of that property and in some ways took hope and took joy in the stewardship of that property. And I felt in other works that you've presented that the relationship between loss and hope seems really profound. And I'm wondering if as an artist, you could reflect on that for us for a second about the relationship between loss, grief and mourning and hope and joy.

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: A lot of people asked me about how I come up with an idea. It's oftentime very personal, almost all the time, actually. There is not really much of a - sort of a play of ideas on my book. I always respond directly to my life's experience. All the way - started from the early 2000s when my daughter was born and when she was sick and, eventually, when she passed away. So the work is not really a reflection or record of that experience but always a response to this kind of survival instinct that I want her to be better. And when she passed away, I want myself and my family to be better. There's a healing quality to that response that I think is important for my work. So after my daughter passed away, I was very influenced by Buddhist thinking. So I was able to combine that spiritual quality to my own experience but project it in a place that doesn't really make immediate connection to my work. But in order to understand my thought process, that definitely was part of it. When I'm thinking about T. C. Steele's house, this is probably one of the few projects that I wasn't thinking about myself. Being able to place myself in a house for a long time - I really felt in touch with history and almost living together with them in a way, feeling connected. But at the same time, it's a kind of improbable connection that could never happen. So the sense of melancholy probably came from there. But, also, I think it's a natural process of kind of looking at the past, being in this dark house. Although as beautiful as it can be, it's still - you know, you're looking at a distant memory. And you can't help feeling a little bit sorry.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKE HOWARD’S “NACHTSONNE”)

ELLIOT REICHERT: You're listening to Profiles on WFIU. I'm Elliot Reichert. Our guest today is Jawshing Arthur Liou. Arthur is an artist with a background in photography, digital media, film and journalism. His most recent work, "House of The Singing Winds," considers the historic T. C. Steele site in Brown County, Indiana.

Your work requires a huge amount of precision in terms of how it is recorded, executed, edited, presented. So I'm curious about the process of that if - in the research for a project like the T. C. Steele Project or any other project and in the execution of it. If there's room for chance, for discovery, how do you deal with those conflicts between the demands of production and the possibility for change and discovery when you produce the work as an artist?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: I remember talking about sort of the process with my students in video art very early on about this metaphor. You know where Indianapolis is, but you don't know quite how to get there. You don't know the landscapes surrounding that road. But once you make that journey, it's as if you kind of knew that beforehand. There's a sense of discovery. But, also, there's that kind of sense of destination or destiny that there's no other way of getting there. That's how I often feel about how my work developed. And it's like peeling an onion and building a pyramid at the same time. There's a cumulative process that is necessary for the work, but there's also a reduction of ideas that kind of bring the project to focus. So I usually come up with a general response and certainly researching a lot. I think all the information about a particular subject matter definitely inform my work. And they may or may not always show up in the work itself. But in a way that is distilled in the idea, I think that's what I'm trying to carry. I'm also not approaching my work as, say, a - conventional filmmaking in a way. I never write scripts at the beginning. I might include some narrative elements such as this piece in my work. But, usually, they come at the very end when I know specifically what I need to do. And because I don't plan precisely what to do, there's a lot of a collection process. It's almost like farming footage. And I try to get the very best shots I can get from a particular image that I perceive. Oftentimes, the - you know, the later process becomes a competition of what comes up, what is the best outcome of these sort of potential images. And then they would kind of just form a river, this flow of passage of time-based media. And they sort of come to clarity at that point. So there's this gradual realization of where the work should go and the identity of the work itself. So it takes time.

ELLIOT REICHERT: There's a kind of intuition about it that - it's probably steeped in the process and steeped in your time with the material. So you are a - you're an internationally exhibited and renowned artist. You're also faculty here at Indiana University in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design, which means that you do have a teaching burden. You teach and work with students. And I'm curious what kind of advice you give to them in general maybe and specifically in the time of COVID as someone who arrived to your work through the circuitous pass that we all arrive at our actual destinies. How do you advise in the world of art making?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: Let's just get the record straight. It's not a burden (laughter); it's a fun experience. And like I mentioned earlier, I was trained in photography. I used to teach dark room. There's that magic of seeing a print develop or surfacing from the developer. And that's kind of like a wow moment, even if you have seen it a thousand times. I think it's similar to that. I mean, seeing students' first project is always exciting. And the most important part of my teaching is everybody's work has to be different. So I don't usually set a parameter for the work in terms of subject matter. And they find different ways of delivering their thought and their sort of artistic response to the course material in their own way. And I appreciate that difference, that diversity. It's very important to me. Students nowadays are very intuitive in terms of video thinking, so it doesn't take a lot of instruction for them to get used to editing. The only part that they can't seem to be - it's not natural for them - is to think beyond music. I think their life is really immersed by music and the typical mass media materials. So trying to guide them to discover a place that is between the cinema and the gallery and able to place a kind of new line of work in that space is tricky. But I try my best. And I'm about to teach seeing their first project. So I really look forward to that.

ELLIOT REICHERT: When I first had the internet, it was 25.6K dial-up, something like that. My family, like, rented a computer from, like, peoplepc.com. Took me a day to rent a - or rather to steal a song on Napster. Things are very different now. I imagine things technologically are very different from when you began your work in photography and film. And I'm curious how that - those rapid technological advances have affected your work. That's question number one. And then question number two is how it affects your work with students and training them.

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: In my class, I always talk about - there's never a better time to work with video. Every year, there are some kind of new discoveries, new advancements on technology that makes the video look stronger, better, more vivid, more clear. And there are new ways of delivery that is more and more convenient and sharp. So those are, I think, really amazing. Even the piece I made in maybe early 2000s - they could look better on a new projection screen. So not - I think not many artistic medium could have that quality that kind of progress and improve over time. And I started working with high def when it first came out. My "Bloodwork" series is one of the first 720p production in early 2000s. And Kora was one of the first 4K production in 2010. And "House of The Singing Wind" is no exception in using one of the newest cameras that could capture over 10,000 horizontal pixels to split them to three screens in a stop-motion animation format. So the technology allows me to do something that - something you may not be able to see before. I think the innovation hopefully is not just a trick or eye candy but in a way that it could improve our understanding of the medium itself to create a more immersive experience. And, ultimately, I think very importantly in video art, that immersive quality allows viewers to participate as opposed to sit back and just being a passive audience. I think that interaction is important in my production.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKE HOWARD’S “PORTRAIT GALLERY”)

ELLIOT REICHERT: You're listening to Profiles on WFIU. I'm Elliot Reichert. Our guest today is Jawshing Arthur Liou. Arthur is an artist with a background in photography, digital film, media and journalism.

Could you tell us more about the artwork, the "House of the Singing Winds" at the Eskenazi Museum, how you developed it? From a technological standpoint, what were your considerations in producing an immersive video installation?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: When David and I started having this discussion about that new gallery, I think our job was to dream big at the time. But it was never a certainty. Every time I talked to him about this new projector, it gets more and more expensive. And his answer is always, you know, we're still looking for money. Up until the very end of my production, it just never seemed sure that this could be installed the way it is. So for that, I'm very grateful about the effort in really securing these very high-end equipment. I remember the projector company sent a representative to showcase one of the world's only two prototype of this newest projector. It was really eye-opening experience. We had people around the room looking at the projector, thinking about its potential. But, still, we didn't know. We didn't know it could be here. So I'm grateful for their investment. And the museum was not built to handle this aspect. And they sort of have to grow an arm out of nowhere. And a lot of people are involved to make this a reality. So I'm really thankful for the investment and the vision to create a type of medium or a showcase of a type of medium that is not really the focus of the museum in the past.

ELLIOT REICHERT: So video art is a very, still at this point, new, somehow unchallenging medium. And it varies a huge amount from the sort of more traditional painting, sculpture, what have you that a museum presents. What challenges do you face as a video artist in terms of exhibiting your work, displaying it and maybe even it being collected, you know? how does your work really differ from what is a kind of traditional museum object?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: Well, it's definitely challenging. I think earlier, I was often - if I'm showing the work in a traditional gallery, I'm usually one of the - or if not the only - the artist that they show. So obviously, they don't have the technology. They don't have the experience. And I, in turn, had to work like a traveling salesman. Thanks to the resources I got at IU, I have plenty of budgets to acquire equipment and are able to bring the technology to the gallery. My early career, I don't have the expectation or I can expect the gallery to come up with the technology, so it's my job to bring it to them. And I had two vans because of - for that reason. I bring building materials. I was not trained very handy, but I learned how to build walls, to paint the gallery, to build my own installation. So there was a lot of self-initiative and investment on my own part to make it happen. And it pays off because once I have those proof that these type of installations are effective and beautiful and impressive, people kind of buy into that vision, and more and more museums and galleries are able to accommodate my request. I build less and less walls. I haven't - I don't remember doing that, you know, in a while. People invest both in the sense of installation and technology in a way that is very encouraging to me right now. So I was able to allow the work travel in a very mobile fashion. And I think one of my shows in South Korea just closed recently. They made a beautiful installation. And again, it's something I can't sort of - can't expect in the very early on. In terms of collection, it's also challenging. But I'm very fortunate to have some success in this area. I work with a gallery in Taiwan that is specialized in time-based media and video art, so she's sort of the authority of the art in Taiwan. So she's very connected, and she knows where the collectors are. And we had a sort of successful relationship since 2009 that definitely helped her work in a tremendous way.

ELLIOT REICHERT: History is written by the winners, what have you. It's always the successes that we know and celebrate. But the failures, the challenges, the things that didn't quite work out are not always written about and not always spoken about. So I wonder, for you is as an artist who's also a teaching artist, if you could share your experiences with failure, with challenge, with rejection. I think that would be a welcome subject for all of us.

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: Well, let's talk about my application to IU. I mentioned earlier that I came to the United States to study photography. IU's photography program was on my top list, and so I applied to IU and a number of other schools. And I was rejected. As opposed to coming to IU and study photography, I ended up going to University of Florida to study after Jerry Uelsmann, who is one of the most renowned IU alum from the photo program. So there's that connection there. But it kind of made full circle when I was hired at IU as a tenure track faculty five years later. It was also interesting that I fulfilled my career trajectory here. I could talk about challenges all day long or failures or disasters. Well, the "House Of Singing Winds" - I mean, obviously, my first proposal for the public art project was rejected. The earlier time of me working on this project was a very lonely time. You know, I'm sort of between grants, didn't have funding to work on this project. I was out there in odd weathers, whether it's very cold or extremely hot. And early in the morning or late into the evening, David and I just chatted, you know, infrequently about this project, so he didn't know what I was doing. And then a grant came out from IU about this new platform program on Indiana studies. I was very excited, you know, because I hadn't worked with Indiana Studies or Indiana subject matter for a long time. And I thought, wow, this is great timing. I was so smart. And I immediately applied. I thought I wrote a compelling argument for this piece. But I wasn't accepted. And at that time, it was, like, with this many challenges, does anybody want to see this? Is this still too odd of a story for people to hear? There's - almost in every single project, I have that self-doubt about whether I can make it. What kind of trouble have I put myself in? How am I going to finish this? But I'm glad to report that this story does have a happy ending. I was very encouraged by Ed Comentale, the associate vice provost for arts and humanities, to apply for a different grant that got me supported. It was extremely helpful in finalizing the project. And I was invited back to platform as a faculty director, so full circle. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKE HOWARD’S “SLUMBER”)

ELLIOT REICHERT: You're listening to Profiles on WFIU. I'm Elliot Reichert. Our guest today is Jawshing Arthur Liou. Arthur is an artist with a background in photography, digital media, film and journalism. His most recent work, "House of The Singing Winds," considers the historic T.C. Steele site in Brown County, Indiana.

The artistic practice is, of course, always about creation, process, bringing things to bear. But, of course, one always needs resources to produce those things. Some folks are faculty, some folks are not. What is the process of gathering the resources you need as an artist to bring a project to bear?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: Art-making is very expensive. Equipment is expensive. Traveling's expensive. Costs a lot of money to mount a show, to publicize. It’s a true labor of love. You know, people don't really do this to make big money, and very few could be successful. So it is very true that we need those resources. And speaking for my own experience, I'm just very privileged to be tenure-track faculty at IU. Funding for arts and humanities is tremendous. There are all kinds of grants at different scales that you can apply. So grant-writing becomes an essential part of my artistic process. And over time, I have accumulated the experience of reviewing grants. That's probably one of the most instrumental part of improving grant writing, is to see other people's proposal. So, I think I could write relatively effectively now and get the money to do what I need to do. And film or video Production requires a lot of collaboration, and when I work on a project, everybody gets paid - my collaborators, students, volunteers. It's just very important for me to be able to compensate them. I don't like to be in a exploitive position to kind of just abuse people's effort, which means that I have to come up with even more resources to do that. So yeah, that's a - that's part of - I think that's part of a practice that's not usually on the table. People often wonder on some elements of the grant, artists get stipend. And I just like to say that it's extremely important for that to be part of the offer because there are so many invisible cost that is usually underestimated by the artists themselves or by people who are trying to support them. And my wife knows the best. You know, whenever I work on a project, we kind of have just to dip into the credit card. And one of my colleagues used to say, the more grants you get, the more money you spend. And it's usually - the spending usually outpaced the support. But still, I think we managed to do what we want to do. And seeing the work going around places and touching people in a way that you may or may not be able to imagine is really the most rewarding part.

ELLIOT REICHERT: So, Arthur, in a number of your works, there is a verbal narrative element that sort of guides us through the images that we are seeing. And in the T.C. Steele piece, “The House of The Singing Winds," it's especially prominent. Selma's voice is really powerful. I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about your process of sourcing that narrative, placing it and relating it to the images? What's the significance of the narrative in this piece?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: OK, let's start with the recent development. Text hasn't been part of my visual work because I just couldn't envision that in this process. It didn't come naturally to me. Until 2013, I started a project in Japan, a walk along the tsunami shoreline, sort of collecting memories of the place. I maintain a daily blog. So it's kind of like a multimedia project that involves photography, video and text. The blog describes my encounter with the place, with the people, as well as my own reflection about my past. It was one of the first times I have, like, a media dialogue with my daughter because it was too painful to go through. So the writing was a blend of journalistic observation and self-reflection, which was the first time, really, I returned to writing in the context of my artwork. So that got me started thinking about writing. In 2017, I started a project - a short film about the cannabis culture in Japan. The game plan from the very beginning was that it needs to be spoken in the Japanese language. The style of the expression is kind of reflective and poetic at the same time, and I have to write it from scratch. So it was - it took a few months for me to plan that and to finish it. And it was originally written in English. But I have - in order to move forward, I had to kind of write it in Chinese in tandem because I just have to use that as a medium for me to squeeze out a little bit more creative juice from me. And then after the two were finished, it got translated back to Japanese. It was narrated by a good friend of mine who was also the actor in the film. What I was trying to approach is a very authentic quality in that delivery. So, you know, with that experience, I was able to kind of tackle this piece with "The House of The Singing Winds" to include text in a way that I wouldn't dare before. And yet again, there's a different approach. I have to kind of distill some of Steele's own writing from about 80 pages of passages into kind of like a medium-sized poem. It was a - still a challenging idea because English is not my first language. And in order to kind of write poetically, I have to rely a lot on Selma Steele's own writing. But assembling that, distilling it to this kind of precise format, is quite a bit of work. And I was certainly really helped by a good friend of mine, Yael Kasander, who narrated the film for me and really put the hearts and souls of the work in her voice, through her voice. She did a wonderful performance. I think it's worth noting that when I'm working with Yael on her voice performance and tone of that expression, we're faced with the same sort of challenge. Do we want to act based on Selma's age and her time? So is there a particular accent (laughter) that we have to carry? And our decision is just kind of keep it natural, just like when I'm envisioning the visual for this piece, it's not a direct translation of T.C. Steele's style. It's more of a response to the house, to their story and to the Brown County landscape. So the narration of this piece is a new one. Still, you know, as much as it's based on Selma's, I think, you know, Yael was able to bring the voice in connection with our own time. And that's a totally new interpretation.

ELLIOT REICHERT: And that's incredibly interesting because one of the things - I would call it a device, but maybe you'd call it differently or maybe it's intuition - but there's a very deft relationship between the way that you scan the house and their interior landscapes, and then you expand into the exterior landscapes of the house, which is to say, you are both literally recording some T.C. Steele landscapes and then re-presenting them as your own, as your own kind of artistic interpretation. And so I don't know what the question there is except to say that, did you ever feel encumbered by T.C.'s legacy or inspired? Or how did you - as someone who's dealing with the work of another artist, how do you relate to that body of work?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: It was definitely in the thinking in the very beginning that, you know, as an artist myself, I very soon gave myself the freedom to connect to his legacy in my own way. And not replicating anything that he has done is very important to me. And certainly, I have all the respect in the world to artists of that generation. Their dedication to art and commitment to their work is just amazing. And they pretty much gave up their life to come to Brown County and build this house for T.C. Steele's work. And it's just amazing to imagine that. But me, you know, as an artist responding to the work, it's just like a journey that I made elsewhere. People ask me, you know, does it feel different that you're working in Indiana? How does it compare to, like, your work in Japan or Tibet? And my answer is, yes, it's different. But at the same time, their house is just as exotic to me as landscape in Tibet or Japan. And I'm certainly not from this part of the world. Although I have lived here for over 20 years, I still consider it very fresh and sometimes very foreign to me. So that's - the work is more about a response to that experience, about that encounter than perhaps, you know, sort of describing potential or a specific aspect of T.C. Steele's work.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKE HOWARD’S “AUGUST”)

ELLIOT REICHERT: You're listening to Profiles on WFIU. I'm Elliot Reichert. Our guest today is Jawshing Arthur Liou. Arthur is an artist with a background in photography, digital film, media and journalism. So, Arthur, I am relatively new to Indiana by way of Chicago and New Jersey at some point in my life. And I also feel like a tourist or a foreigner in this place in some ways, even though I've been in the Midwest for a long time. So I'm just curious. Your artwork, "The House Of The Singing Winds," really brings out this kind of beauty and spirit of this area that I don't think everyone would assume or be able to access without, in fact, your artwork being able to present it to them and augment it to them. So I'd just be curious as a as a fellow traveler in Southern Indiana, in Bloomington, you know, what advice do you have to give in terms of fellow explorers, artists, anyone?

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: I don't think I'd be qualified to provide advice, but I can talk about my own experience. I developed a habit of hiking in Brown County, or around Lake Monroe, when I was preparing for my pilgrimage work. You know, I felt really connected to the landscape here. So that's one of the other motivations I had when it comes to this work. And I - you know, before going to the T.C. Steele site, I drove by the road sign many times. And I know it's sort of an artist historic site, and, you know, I should feel obliged to visit. But I didn't for a long time. But once I got there, it was just - the experience was magical. The staff is extremely kind, you know, to all the visitors, and especially to me when I was working there. I'm really grateful. They made the best tours that I highly recommend. They tell amazing stories. And it's a tour that you should go more than once because everybody tells that story a little bit differently. I was fascinated because I get to hear all of them - in studios, in the house. And at one point, I became a feature of that tour. So they would say, you know, this is a fireplace, and these are the pianos. And, oh, here's a visiting artist from IU. And I would just wave at them, greeting them and welcome them as if I'm part of that staff. So that was a really enjoyable experience, actually. I think the site is a really incredible place, and I recommend everybody go. There are trails around the historic site that is also beautiful. And just thinking about, you know, you're walking the paintings, you're walking in the paintings that T.C. Steele used to make. And this is his favorite place in the world. And I think that means a lot. That means a lot to a lot of people. Another suggestion I would like to make is to come to the museum and see the show. And if you have seen teasers or trailers of this piece online, you know, it does not really compare to the on-site experience. Being able to sit and be immersed in the three high-end projections and see the landscape around you and hear the voice of presumably Selma Steele reflecting on the past - it is, I think, I think, incredible experience, I hope. And the museum was freshly renovated. It's an incredible investment on their part, and I hope you'll be entertained by that experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKE HOWARD’S “AUGUST”)

ELLIOT REICHERT: Thanks so much for speaking with us today, Arthur. I really appreciate it.

JAWSHING ARTHUR LIOU: Thank you so much, Elliot.

ELLIOT REICHERT: I've been speaking today with Jawshing Arthur Liou. Thank you for being with us. This is Elliot Reichert for Profiles.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELA FLECK AND THE FLECKTONES’ “BLU-BOP)

AARON CAIN: For more information about Profiles, including archives of past shows, go to wfiu.org/Profiles. Profiles is a production of WFIU and comes from the studios of Indiana University. The producer is Jillian Burley. The studio engineer is Michael Paskash. The executive producer is John Bailey. Please join us again next week for another edition of Profiles.

 

Jawshing Arthur Liou

Jawshing Arthur Liou (Jillian Burley, WFIU)

Jawshing Arthur Liou is an artist with a background in photography, digital media, film, and journalism. His recent projects include a pilgrimage in the sacred mountains in Tibet, a journey through the tsunami-ravaged coastline of Japan, and a cinematic collaboration with a brain scientist regarding the connection between endocannabinoids and memory.

Liou works with lens-based materials and electronic imaging to create installations depicting mental and surreal spaces. Many of his videos do not contain clear narratives but are meditative in nature, allowing time to slow to a ruminative pace while spatial scales oscillate between the microcosmic and infinitely expansive. Using sources ranging from landscapes and oil paint to human body, much of Liou’s work is related to notions of impermanence, human tragedy, and spiritual sanctuary.

Liou’s videos and prints have been featured in programs, exhibitions, and collections in Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Rubin Museum in New York, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Liou is the recipient of Asian Cultural Council Grant, New York; Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship, Indianapolis; and Garry B. Fritz Award from the Society for Photographic Education National Conference, Chicago.

Liou is currently the Herman B. Wells Professor of Digital Art at Indiana University, Bloomington. His ambitious new artwork, House of the Singing Winds, is a multi-channel video installation inspired by the historical Indiana home and studio of painter Theodore Clement Steele. It is currently on display at the Eskenazi Musiem of Art.

Jawshing Arthur Liou spoke with Elliot Reichert, the museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art.

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