Blackbox,3-channel video excerpt

The Nature, 3-channel video excerpt

The Soybean, 3-channel video excerpt


Peak Pegasus, a 229 meter bulk contains some 70,000 tons of soybeans worth more than $20m, first arrived off the coast of China on July 6, 2018. However, the vessel just arrived late for 24 hours. It has been bobbing aimlessly in the Pacific Ocean for a month before finally docked in China by adding $6m tariff.


I have been intrigued by this news that happened as a result of Beijing and Washington’s escalating trade war. A small soybean becomes the reluctant symbol of the consequences of this tit-for-tat trade spat. I start to imagine the news’ details as a modern magic realism story that weaves together many dramatic elements- the lingering uncertainty over the protein-rich cargo’s fate, the skirting contrast between a tiny soybean and gigantic economic cost, the sound of the unpredictable sea, the dark freights with thousands of soybeans waiting to be consumed by humans and animals, and the infinite landscapes of green plants. 


What behind the above narrative is an even greater global context- the soybeans are produced by farms living in the mid of the US, the goods are owned by a French agriculture (Louis Dreyfus Company) conglomerate that starts its intercontinental business in 1851, and it will be cooked as a daily dish on Chinese families’ dinner table in rural areas.

I want to visualize my imagination of this modern myth. The 3-channel video installation (in constructing) charts the translation of how a soybean becomes the symbol of the trade war. It synthesizes my narrative, the actual flow of the soybean production-export, and many global inexplicable events contributed by various organizations and societies. The project tries to understand and interpret the dramatic and fleeting characteristics of our times. Meanwhile, I hope the rest of the country could know the dilemma of the remote, extremely small group of people (farmers consist between 1-2% of the US population) is facing, which is also the hope of a local farmer in Iowa.

The three screens present nature (Rousseau and Turner’s nature romanticism), soybean (soybean lands, production, and transportation)  and black box (political, economic and globalization machine) respectively. The installation’s philosophical foundation is based on the matrix of modern paradox, namely, we divide the world into two groups –nature (science) and culture (politics) – but at the same time, in our daily lives, we constantly deal with hybrids between these two groups.

I initiated the project this June by doing field research. I was granted an opportunity to participate in the Lakeside Lab Artist Residency program in Milford, Iowa. I was introduced to local farmers connected by the Iowa Soybean Association, which started to help local farmers trade with China 35 years ago. 

Field Research/Lab Report