Annie Chen Ziyao, a talented artist from China, has established her exclusive pattern of inspiring people to think through her work. Her exploration of self-identity and how people should position themselves in this society has made her stand out from other designers. The success of Annie cannot be achieved without her inclusiveness and openness.
Would you please briefly describe your academic background and what you are doing right now?
I did my bachelor’s in art history and business at St. Lawrence University and went to the School of Visual Arts for my master’s, majoring in photography and video. I am now both a curator and an artist. The recent exhibition I have curated is a group exhibition including some NFT projects for the East Village Art Collection. I am also running an artist publishing platform called: IIDRR with a friend. The name is a string of codes that doesn’t make any sense but represents the randomness of the digital world. Our artist platform has been established for a year and a half. We provide the opportunity for emerging creatives to show their works and build connections with other great artists. In the meanwhile, we would invite artists with a great reputation in the art industry to share their inspirational experiences with young artists.
Can you share some ideas about your latest project Ms. Meta Meta?
Most of my work is concerned with the relationship between a social environment and human beings or a discussion about the Internet and self-identity. The creation of Ms. Meta Meta is based on the aesthetic trends brought by the internet that I’ve experienced in the past few years. Many influencers from the internet, for example, will get plastic surgeries and totally tweet about them. It is totally a personal choice, but the internet delivers this type of “beauty trend” and reinforces the concept of harmful beauty standards, which is actually unhealthy and unnecessary to a lot of people. Therefore, I took an extreme approach to satirize this phenomenon. Ms. Meta Meta lives in a world where acne pits and marks are seen as the only beauty standard so she is introducing some skincare products and treatments that could cause you to have those in the video.
Besides Ms. Meta Meta, do you have any other projects that are also about self-identity or body shape?
My works Magenta Space and City Vacation are also about self-identity. But it is a bigger picture that explores self-identity in an environment that you are unfamiliar with. During the epidemic lockdown, many of us, especially the international student community have too little communication with the outside world besides contacting their friends and family through the phone and the Internet. So I used the color magenta to create a space but left myself white-out to reflect a sense of isolation. City Vacation is a photo series of a girl in a swimming suit standing in different city scenes, which creates a sharp contradiction between someone on vacation and busy life in a city. This is an exploration of how we can not be defined by the stereotypes in the social circumstances like women should be getting married and have kids given the rapid development of the city.
That sounds interesting! What message are you trying to convey in your exhibition Now + Here?
That exhibition actually broke the traditional concept of very academic or institutional types of exhibitions that have high standards of the background and experience of an artist. But our main focus in this exhibition is that whether you are a self-taught artist or one that graduated from a professional institution, you are welcome to participate in it. At the same time, we are very supportive of local artists. The exhibitors are all from New York City, New Jersey, New York, or Upstate New York. And we were also trying to make it an inclusive one that’s all forms friendly, including NFT works, traditional and modern paintings, mixed media works and video art, etc.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Is it from something that you experienced?
My inspiration majorly came from the environment that I live in and the social news and events of the day. For example, the idea of my project Ms. Meta Meta actually came from my own experience at that time when there were a lot of online articles about this kind of abnormal aesthetic orientation and exaggerated skincare methods. And there were several reports and articles about a girl who had depression and killed herself because of her social appearance anxiety, so I decided to do a project like that.