From Altered Histories to the Female Gaze: A Glimpse Into the Art and Career of Multimedia Artist, Yun Chen

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Zhuoyun (Yun) Chen is a Los Angeles-based multimedia artist and experimental filmmaker who has chosen to showcase the diversity of cultures and sexuality through film. The talented multimedia artist holds a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in Film and Video from the California Institute of the Arts.

As a Chinese native, Yun has used art to explore the political and social aspects of modern Chinese history, illuminating a neglected past for younger generations. With expertise in analog film, she has created compelling visuals and narratives based on family stories and alternate histories, offering a unique perspective on a historical era that has been overlooked by many. Through her work, Yun aims to bridge the gap between the present and the past, using art and film as a means to engage and educate younger generations about their cultural heritage.

Some of Yun’s most notable films that have spoken to younger generations, What’s Ours and What We Are(2016), and UUFO (2018), shed light on important historical events that have shaped modern Chinese society. She uses images, motifs, and words that originally served a particular political agenda and are playfully manipulated to distort and re-contextualize their original status, satirically articulating the purpose of propaganda to “speak to” and ultimately persuade a spectator. The young generation cannot resonate with such if they don’t watch it in the films, which is what Yun has brought closer. The two films visualize modern Chinese society’s emotional and psychological impact on individuals across different generations.

However, Yun recently shifted her artistic focus from exploring history to examining “the female gaze”. Over the past couple of years, her projects involved experimenting with abstract shapes and artificial objects to explore the multiple aspects of sexuality. In her multimedia installation, Love Language (2021), Yun created visuals in ceramic sculptures and moving images. Love Language consists of 10 short videos, and each video echoes and responds to a quote from a controversial erotica movie. She uses digital image manipulations and sounds to reflect the quotes’ emotional and visceral evocations. The project aims to challenge societal norms surrounding female sexuality and offers an alternative narrative free from the confines of patriarchal expectations.

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Yun’s new 16mm film, If Only You Could See a View Above the Clouds (2022), explores delayed emotional dilemmas as a visual riddle. She says that using analog film to experiment with textures adds a unique and visceral quality to the fragility of emotions that are intimate yet universal.

Besides her personal achievements, Yun has collaborated with other industry artists. She is the creative producer of award-winning animation filmmaker Zhen Li, the creative editor of award-winning filmmaker Yanyu Dong, and the cinematographer for Alexander Stewart’s new film, The School of Perfect Sight, and Annapurna Kumar’s new film, Mirror Products Catalog.

This year, Yun is working on a new 16mm film and multimedia installation pivoting on the domestic body of women with a focus on female subjectivity and experience. She will be curating two independent film screenings in Los Angeles centered on the new Chinese language cinema, hoping to grow into a long-term alternative cinema screening series in Los Angeles.

In the coming years, Yun hopes to take on more curatorial and creative-producing projects alongside her artistic practices that challenge dominant cultural narratives and creating space for alternative perspectives and voices.

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