A collage creates a new whole from parts that are not expected to go together; to me, it is an act of making what typically does not belong belong to each other. In this piece, I explore the relationship between diasporic peoples and our notions of homeland.
The piece starts off with an Asian woman lying in bed, as the moon begins to move across. The screen reads “举头望明月， 低头思故乡” (“Raising my head and gazing at the moon, lowering my head and reminiscing hometown”), lines from 李白’s (Li Bai) canonical poem, 《静夜思》(“Silent Night Reflection”). The poem is prevalent in any Chinese curriculum, even for children, and depicts the sorrow and loneliness of someone who has traveled from home. The transition from the moonlit bedroom to the mountain range suggests a transportation through memory and nostalgia. However, I include my own words “两国之间，幻想故乡” (“Between two countries, imagining homeland”) as the mountain range shifts in colors and becomes vibrant. By doing so, I raise questions of belonging to an ancestral homeland when seen as inauthentic and not culturally accepted, or when having never been to the homeland itself, and any general distance and disconnect from the homeland. While the same words are used in both lines, “故乡,” they mean different things for the traveler within the homeland and the diasporic person who travels or is born away from the homeland; there is a difference between being able to claim and return to a hometown and not even feeling like there is a homeland to which to belong to. Thus, imagining homeland may simultaneously be an act of imagining what is literally unknown, but more importantly, re-imagining homeland as a place in which one can belong to regardless of other expectations. I draw from Asian American authors like Kai Cheng Thom, who imagines in a place called No Homeland a world for her to claim in which “the bodies of the marginalized…are celebrated, survival songs are sung, and the ancestors offer you forgiveness for not remembering their names,” and Thi Bui, who goes a further step to say, “I no longer feel the need to reclaim a HOMELAND,” in The Best We Could Do (Bui 326). The final scene of the landscape consuming the female body reflects both either her belonging to the homeland and, therefore, dissolving into it, or her no longer needing to belong and disappearing.
I initially started off with the above collage, but felt that it was important for me to emphasize possibilities outside of normative ties to homeland. Thus, I wanted to nod towards imagination through the use of colors.
After I had done so, I wanted to further reflect upon the choices behind my image selection and what meaning they may contribute to my piece. Through doing so, I added the bedroom scene and 李白’s poem, as well as the white rabbits.
The image of the moon connects to 李白’s poem, as it starts with “床前明月光” (“The moonlight before my bed”). However, the moon is a cultural tie to my homeland that I hold through the Moon Festival, the myths of Chang E, and mooncakes. The myth of Chang E involves a jade rabbit that accompanies her on the moon, and I grew up eating White Rabbit Candy, so I felt that it was important for me to include these images that remind me of my home.
I believe that this piece is one of my more conceptually strong ones, and my personal investment in the topic at hand allowed this piece to be an opportunity for me to self-reflect and process. If I were to continue working on it, I think I would have wanted to make the woman’s body eventually be composed of the natural elements, fully integrating her into the environment. Similarly, I would like to make the transition between bed to mountains smoother through having natural elements slowly encroach upon the bed and engulf it.
Wang, Hui. “The Kangxi Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Three: Ji’nan to Mount Tai.” Handscroll; ink and color on silk, 26 3/4 in. x 45 ft. 8 3/4 in. (67.9 x 1393.8 cm). The Met, 1698. The Met. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/49156?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=60&rpp=20&pos=76.
sometimesdee. Brand New Bad . March 16, 2008. Photograph. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/9598622@N03/2337745531.
usyami. SAWORI. March 22, 2008. Photograph. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/96299527@N00/2386391623.
osde8info. Moon. November 4, 2008. Photograph. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/8764442@N07/4074823224.
yoppy. White Rabbit. February 19, 2008. Photograph. Flickr. https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/09215280-ffe2-4e48-b787-68c1023e4ac4.
Pixfiniti. Quick 3D Anaglyph Effect in Photoshop. YouTube. YouTube, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d4T3V3rmq0.
Bui, Thi. The Best We Could Do. New York: Abrams Comicarts, 2018.
Thom, Kai Cheng. A Place Called No Homeland. Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017.
I used Wang Hui’s scroll as the dominant landscape for the setting of my piece and to locate the homeland in question as China.
I used this image as the secondary setting that my piece opens up with to reflect the setting of the poem from which the first sentence is taken from.
This photograph was masked to make up the subject of my piece.
Image modified and used for the moon in my piece.
I modified this image of “White Rabbit” candy, repeated it, and used it for the rabbits that go across my landscape, while invoking another layer of cultural meaning.
This tutorial taught me how to create a 3D effect with my images and allowed me to alter the mountain landscape in a colorful way that invokes the sense of imagination.
As I mentioned earlier, these two texts have informed my conceptual understanding of homeland in relation to the Asian diaspora.