Yuenan Han 韩岳楠 (b.1999 China) is a Chinese artist currently based in London. Before her postgraduate course at Royal College of Art, she studied visual communication design at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Now she focuses on contemporary art practice, and mainly uses moving image as the medium of creation.
Yuenan's works revolve around her life's journey. She moved to Beijing in 2014 to live alone. In 2021, after completing her BFA course, she returned to her hometown in northeastern China and started a journey of traceability in identity. She works on contemporary art in her hometown in the form of photography and documentary. Her works focus on the collective spiritual worlds constructed by the inhabitants who have lived under imperfect social institutions for their whole lives. The confrontation between the shaping of the spiritual world and the social environment is evident in her works of this period.
In the autumn of 2022, Yuenan left her homeland for London. The unfamiliarity of her surroundings caused her to shift her focus from the familiar collective to herself. Much of her work from this period deals with the mutual discipline of identity and the spiritual world. In her latest work, Elysian Awakening (London, 2023), she proposes, through a fictional drama script, the possibility of escaping from the aforementioned cycle of mutual discipline.
Elysian Awakening (London, 2023) is the story of Elyse, the main character, who goes in search of Elysium after using another person to replace her in real life. The video is a filmed and edited reading of the script in different environments and is an experiment in the way the story can be presented.
The setting of the script comes from a reflection on identity. During our formative years, we are educated and influenced by the last generation to form our own identity, which we later use to discipline the next generation, therefore creating an ecological cycle of narrative environments. As we grow and develop, after a change of environment we still return to a The story of Elysian Awakening raises the possibility of escaping from this compulsive cycle. Elyse's solution is to give up her identity and her name, but this comes at an unimaginable sacrifice.
The video makes use of the script's first and last features to create a loop. Elyse in the video is constantly in a cycle of giving up and picking up her identity. The oscillation between reflection and conformity allows Elyse to leave and come back again and again. the success or unsuccess of Elyse is different for everyone, but in her imagination and pursuit of Elysium perhaps we have been able to glimpse an Elyse outside of the identity cycle.
Medium:Video, script, performance
This project takes place in an industrial city with lagging economy and serious population loss in Northeast China. I have been filming the gathering activities of retired residents in a community for a long time. From their words and deeds, I find that although they have left the working system, they are still trying to re-establish and continue the system in their own social space under the influence of common collective memory. I use documentary filming to show the functional areas such as vegetable garden, tea room and open-air barbecue transformed by people in the public space of the community. By editing some topics in collective activities, I present the spiritual pursuit of retired workers who cannot free themselves from the desire for sacrifice. And I also showed their self-esteem and confidence when understanding external things with the experience within the public sector, which were caused by the collective industrial production model and political propaganda at that time. I hope to arouse reflection on the relationship between politics and human nature based on the self-treatment model caused by the scars of social development.