Poet Qianye takes visitors through a labyrinth of art

Yang Yang
Shanghai-born poet Qianye is holding her solo exhibition, inviting visitors on an interactive journey through her "maze," allowing them to interpret and reflect on her work.
Yang Yang

Edited by Yang Yang. Reported by Yang Yang. Subtitles by Yang Yang and Sal Haque.

In "Poetry Labyrinth: Recreation Area on Earth," Shanghai-born poet Shen Keyi, better known as Qianye, invites people to her "maze amusement park," where the journey through the maze will engage visitors with an interactive reconstruction of her poems.

It also lets visitors experience the artist's abstract paintings, while giving them a rare look at her manuscripts.

The poet defines Chinese characters as a language with diverse directions, different from the linear narrative quality of Western alphabetic languages.

Qianye applied shuabi (刷笔), a traditional Chinese calligraphy style from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) calligrapher Mi Fu (1051-1107), to write her poems randomly and repeatedly on a wooden board.

Then she recalled a childhood game, the popular cat's cradle, in which usually a girl knits a red thread into a pattern with her fingers, then another takes it with her fingers, turning it into another pattern.

Red thread made of silk is attached to nails on the wooden board and wound into a labyrinth track upon the shape of a maze, derived from the seal characters 诗歌 (poetry).

The poet then hid the labyrinth. The only way to revisit it visually is through a pair of binoculars.

Poet Qianye takes visitors through a labyrinth of art
Ti Gong

The "Poetry Labyrinth" art installation by poet Qianye. After completing the installation, the poet hid it and the only way to revisit it visually is through a pair of binoculars.

"The labyrinth has many paths toward one exit. But before you leave, you experience dead ends and breakthroughs, a process much resembling the birth of a poem," said Qianye.

The exhibition also features 30 abstract paintings, each inspired from a randomly picked verse from a randomly picked poem by the poet.

In addition, the poet also invites people to interactively reconstruct her poems. They're allowed to use a marker pen to bravely delete any character, phrase, or sentence in her poems on a wall, then use their own words and symbols to replace them.

In her art installation "Poem Specimens," copying papers she used to write her manuscripts are preserved in acrylic glass cubes. The "Poem Socks," another poetry object, was co-produced by well-known fashion designer Lu Kun, through which visitors can make a lucky draw from the hanging socks where both candies and verses in wax-wrapped pills are hidden.

"It's a choice we made in a game, to remind us of the endless tiny choices we made in our lives," the poet explained.

Poet Qianye takes visitors through a labyrinth of art
Ti Gong

Qianye, or Shen Keyi, is a young poet born in Shanghai in 1997.

Exhibition info:

Date: Through September 16, closed on Mondays

Venue: Xinxiang Art Gallery

Address: 50 Wenshui Rd


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