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Sculpture (MA)

Danying Yu

danying🚶🏻(b.1997), a wanderer.

Wandering in unfamiliar surroundings, observing various language of the city in its sights, sounds, smells, in the way it materializes (and has been materializing) against one’s body. Her current works attempt to collect data on the field and transform them into puzzle pieces to document her brief but intense urban forays through self-imaging practice.

She is currently based in London / Shanghai.

The world is arrayed in a "scenographic orientation".

Inspired by the uncanny, homogenized, and highly disorientating post-urban cityscape - a primary site for emplacement and displacement, Danying takes walking as her starting point and treats the city as an archaeological site. Merging architectural construction plans with mental maps - utilizing this layering to reflect upon how bodies navigate and interact with our surroundings. Wondering what kind of disorientation is this? From what kind of psychic space of orientation does it diverge?

What to do when get lost in the city?

Portal series originates from Danying's multiple impressions and images of disorienting cityscapes. The illustrated subjects are the representations of the stills Danying shoot on foot while wandering through urban environments, tracing records of microelectronic systems, construction drawings, and bony blocks. Focusing on numerous confusing tiny details in the environment becomes very close to the act of touching or tasting. Each and every ‘force’ that shapes a city – whether it be time, space, or human interest – collectively form each and every layer of the palimpsest. The process of fitting together city palimpsests puts her quite firmly in the world. Boundaries between people and the things that make up the world are all suddenly porous.

Following the thicks and thins of an urban text, wanderers write without being able to read it. As if reciting how indescribable postmodernism is.


We see a ragpicker who comes, bobbing his head,

Stumbling, bumping into the walls like a poet.

And, with no care for the snitches, his mates,

He pours out his entire heart in glorious projects.

Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil, 1857

During COVID times, I came back to Shanghai and worked as an intern in an architectural studio merely out of curiosity. In the past few months, I was getting to know some of the operating mechanisms and started to raise some real confusion, doubt, understanding, and imagination. The experience offered me a portal to look closely at how our accustomed environment was constructed and to reflect upon how the body navigated and interacted with our surroundings. 

I found myself easily get lost. Get lost in the city, get lost in an architectural model. Postmodernism - like the city taken to epitomize its cultural ethos - is thus taken as characterized by this experience of disorientation.

But what kind of disorientation is this? From what kind of psychic space of orientation does it diverge?

I take walking as my starting point. Wandering in the city, strolling around the 3d model.

Meteorology in my book is a subject of chasing the invisible atmospheric movement. The most attractive part to me would be the weather forecasting, for it seems to always be a work in progress.

It reminds me of those early days when the paper wasn’t invented, people used to write on parchment which was expensive and not readily available. The text was scraped or washed off using milk and oat bran so that the page could be reused for another document. With the passing of time, the faint remains of the former writing would reappear enough so that people can discern the manuscript page which is the palimpsest.

If we take the parchment as a meteorological chart, habitat, or city, the chorus of idle footsteps will refer, like words, to the absence of what has passed by. Walking whether in real space-time or in Cyberspace, your path is disciplined. But the disorienting space makes people feel discomfort is that once inside, you can just go wherever you want. You don't know which way to move. The intertwined paths of wanderers give the shape to spaces and weave places together, following the thicks and thins of an urban “text” they write without being able to read it. As if reciting how indescribable modernity is.

The first six pieces of Portal are the ones I made after walking on rainy days and will be presented in an upcoming art book ATMOSPHERE / RAIN published by DREAMER FTY. Wandering, overlapping, disorienting. As if the rain links heaven and earth.

China Scholarship Council