Yan Shao is a terrestrial artist and creative technologist based in New York. Yan received a MPS from Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 2023. Yan’s imaginative new media works explore the uncharted territories of perception, mediating the complex interrelations between humans and the environment. Yan’s artistic language draws inspiration from geopolitics, the transitory essence of nature, and the human responsibility towards ecology, resulting in a unique and evocative visual narrative. Through her photography, video and interactive installation, Yan invites viewers on a journey of discovery and reflection, exploring the depth of our connection with the earth. Yan’s work has been exhibited in several Bay Area galleries, and she has been recognized with a fellowship from the Tisch Initiative of Creative Research. She has also been featured in the recent 28th ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Art).
Tell us a little about your background and your trajectory as an artist/ scholar
My journey began in the realm of science. I studied Geology in my undergraduate, where I was trained and prepared to be a scientific researcher. I was intrigued in dissecting the unmeasurable world into analytical and explainable language, solve puzzles about the planet we inhabit. I have done research from geochemical analysis of rock samples to strata studies in the field, to obtaining water and zooplankton samples in rivers to research environmental risks. Though with my excitement in science that allowed me to understand the world objectively, I found myself was more drawn towards arts that offered a sense of connection. My growing interest in expressive arts led me to the San Francisco Art Institute in California, a transition from the laboratories to the studios. There, I was exposed to a lot new inspirations and had a chance visiting the landscapes of the American West and the enchanting vistas of National Parks. I stood amidst the sublime grandeur of nature, where blurred the boundaries between my disciplines, inspired my creative expression about the traces and the sublime formed during the dynamic earth processes. My objective of practice became more clear: to create an openness to the earth in a sensible, textured, involved form of expression. The earth surface we lived on is not only shaped by nature, and our civilization is intricately woven with the threads of technology. During the COVID-19, I become more conscious of how technology has shaped our perception and understanding of the world, prompting me to integrate it into my creative process as both a tool and an expressive medium. Consequently, I enrolled in the Interactive Telecommunicates Program(ITP) at New York University to delve into the intersection of art and technology. My journey is still in progress, where science and technology merge with my artistic practice, allowing me to create sensory experiences that forge a connection between humans, organisms, the land sculpted over millions of years. I hope my work can bridge the awareness of the Anthropocene, creative new narrative of our earth, shift our view of representations, and reimagine the earth we live in and the earth we live from.
3. What are some of your main influences?*
Jeremy P.H. Morgan and Jeannene Przyblyski I had the privilege of learning under two distinguished professors at San Francisco Art Institute who has profound influence on me. Jeremy P.H. Morgan, a painter and educator, whose work interprets geological consciousness and blending of eastern and western culture in his abstract expression. Observing and studying with him has deeply enriched my sensibility. Jeannene Przyblyski is an artist and art historian, guided me in my exploration on the concept of ‘site’ that relates to site-specific art, geological conservation, and cultural heritage. Her insightful mentorship help me to a nuanced understanding of the intersections of these areas, and led my work has a sense of place, space, and history both in human and earth. 2. Gaia Theory by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis The Gaia Theory has significantly impacted my research and understanding of life and our planet. This theory posits that life is not just an occurrence in Earth’s history but a transformative event that has substantially influenced the conditions for survival and thriving. It presents an inclusive, holistic view of the Earth, considering not just organisms, but also the atmosphere, soil, rocks, seas, minerals, and more as integral components. It has greatly shaped my approach to understanding the interconnectedness of life and its various influences. 3. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Staying within Troubles – Making Kin the Chthulucene by Donna Haraway These works offer alternative, accessible narratives that challenge the predominantly western scientific viewpoint. They offer unique perspectives and beautiful languages that have enriched my understanding of our world and influenced my artistic expression. 4. Critical Zone at ZKM, curated by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel. It is an unique art exhibition that dedicate to explore the critical issue of climate change and propose new modes of coexistence between all forms of life. It also hosted a virtual exhibition on the website and several events during the COVID-19, that demonstrated the power of the internet in global connection, at the same time, urging us to think the same bearing of pandemic and climate change. 5. Renaissance 3.0 at ZKM, curated by Peter Weibel This exhibition serves as an exploration of the synergies between art and science in the 21st century, paving the way for a new cultural formation. Its innovative blend of these two fields has greatly inspired my practice.
4. What are you working on now?*
My ongoing research and projects may relate to salt, the essential mineral has a fundamental role in shaping all organisms and connecting life to the earth. I am also interested in the ecological dynamics of estuaries, the transitional zones where saltwater and freshwater meet, that symbolizing the junction of land and ocean, and exploring their insights into the interconnectedness of earth and civilization. Another critical focus of my work lies in the sphere of climate change, such as my previous project ‘Left To Feel That Wind’, where the geological processes has been accelerated within our lifetimes.