a thesis on united nations art project & its time and environment

project time line|continents overview|concept




an ongoing world-wide art project: united nations(1993-2000)

the concept, the strategy, the methodology
otherness/alienation/difference, bio/geo/cultural confrontation

“subject represents subject”
human body as battleground, human body material as conviction

“hair-itage”- vast human hair ocean
merges universal identity for united nations project

fusion of human nature(hair)with artificial nature(language)
fusion of different races(hairs)with different cultures(languages)

delving into diverse cultures, capturing national identities
profoundness at the final ceremony of united nations

brave mankind - brave new world
united nations art project is brought to the historical moment





an ongoing world-wide art project: united nations, (1993-)

united nations is an ongoing world-wide art project initiated in the beginning of 1992. from that point until late 1993, I developed the original concept and its executive plan involving a complex strategy and methodology. during this long meditative period, i had immense doubts concerning my personal abilities to successfully develop and execute this conceptually, physically, timely, politically, racially difficult art project. however i firmly held onto my vision as i clearly foresaw the profound nature and challenge of this project for me and for related races and their civilizations. i also felt that as a result of the inordinate risks that i would be taking that united nations project could provide an extraordinary opportunity for me as an individual artist.

during its more than ten year length, united nations art project will travel throughout five continents, in approximately twenty different countries which I have selected due to their historical, civilization and political importance. by utilizing the real hair of the local living population, i’m strongly relating to their historical and cultural contexts, to create monumental installations and land arts to capture each country’s identity, building on profound events in each country’s history. these individual installations are national monuments to the whole art project of united nations. the notions such as transculturalism, transnationalism, hybridization are goals of the final ceremony of the project.

in a few years into twenty-first century, a giant wall will be composed solely from the pure human hair from the integration of the national monument events. the human hair woven world pseudo-languages co-existing on the wall .

a great “utopia” of the unification of mankind probably can never exist in our reality but it is going to be fully realized in the art world. paradoxically, the human wall will not only maintain their own ethnical identities, but also a co-existence of cultures(pseudo world languages). from china’s great wall to the berlin wall, the wall itself is a metaphor of separation. but the implications of united nations art project final ceremony will be truly mankind unification.

at the final realization of united nations project there will be thousands and thousands of different living races’ presence on the hair wall, supported by so many cultural institutions, local barbershops and most of all are living population around the world.

“this new issue leads to new artistic issues, provoked by the expansion of a transcultural reality in our world. once again, mankind is entering a new age, a new historical time, which now can be actually defined as ‘planetary’. and wenda gu’s project united nations is clearly symptomatic, maybe in a temporary anticipation, of the entering of this new conception and elaboration of culture and cultural differences, that he punctually defines as ‘transculturalism’.” 1

“is this another dawning of the age of acquarius? a multicultural update on the altruistic impulse that over decades has spawned such artistic events as ‘the family of the man’ and ‘we are the world’? or is it a reexamination of the late twentieth century’s intensified and rapidly mutating concept of ethnicity and nationalism?”2





the concept, the strategy, the methodology
otherness/alienation/difference, bio/geo/cultural fusion

united nations is an art project well aware of many cultural and artistic issues of our times which are of growing intensity in our global reality. from the beginning, the project has attempted to be a three dimensional mirror reflecting global bio/geo/culturally shifting environments on the whole. from the long developmental process of the project’s globalization, its aim is to sum up all of the possible phenomenon resulting from the divisional works and unit them, and bring the united phenomenon to our common destiny based upon our modern humanity.

throughout my cultural, political, ethnic and artistic experiences, more than ten years in china, and eight years in the rest of the world as an individual artist; from a red guard who painted revolutionary posters during mao’s cultural revolution to create this world-wide art project, united nations is such a special journey to go through. encountering diverse races and world cultures while reshaping their monuments, this path has given me a chance to confront what i have always been fascinated by: the egyptian pyramids, the african myth, the roman empire, the american adventure, the berlin wall, china’s silk road and great wall. their spirits have always been the sources of my inspiration.

this concept has brought about several intense dramas along united nations project’s journey in different countries. i like to equate some of my experiences to two famous chinese historical references. once, when china was made up of many individual countries, confucius wanted to publicize his doctrine throughout the land. so, he traveled around these various countries spreading his idea of how to govern until his beliefs were advocated. this strategy was repeated by mao in his red army’s infamous military milestone known as, “the twenty-five thousand kilometers long march”, through endless grasslands attempting to escape the pursuit of the formal party’s army. along the way, he convinced thousands and thousands of peasants to believe and support his revolution. thus he explained, “the long march is a propaganda team; it is like a seeder...”. these two historical references serve as an even more important metaphoric methodology for today’s bio/geo/cultural environment.

with united nations project and its many divisional monumental works, i want to push to the opposite extremes: the personal and the political, local and global issues, timeliness and timelessness.

based on rapid global bio/geo/cultural transitions, fast approaching our new millennium, the conception, strategy and methodology of united nations art project sets up several formulas. #1- the entire project is divided into two parts: national monuments and united nations final monument. #2 - each national monument is divided into two parts: local people’s hair (sole material for the project) and local historical context (concept). #3 - it provides direct physical contact, interaction, integration and confrontation with the local population (collecting hair) and their cultural histories (conceptual reference). instead of imagining or reading about cultures and than work from that information in the private studio, i strongly believe that actual, physical experiences are far more authentic and important than literary interpretations. formula #4 is ‘i’ as the initiator and executor. my bio/geo/cultural identity becomes the device that shapes the cultural dialogues, confrontations, and possible battles. this position constantly creates ‘who i am’ to ‘who i am not’ whenever i am buried in a divisional work, (with the exception of united nations project china monument) and provides an international ‘expatriate’ for everyone to relate to in every corner of our planet.

all four formulas have invented an absolutely authentic situation which precisely fits our bio/geo/cultural transition which goes beyond ‘otherization’, ‘regionalization’, ‘transculturalization’ and so on. under this conceptual working process, the identity of the local race and its culture is being ‘otherized’ by me as the ‘stranger’. at the same time, my own identity is being ‘otherized’ and in so doing, merges with the ‘strangers’ and their culture: a double ‘otherness’.

one of the striking challenges of united nations project is that it uniquely delivers an intense historical and cultural psychological paradox for the local audience and myself. when the local audience is before the monument composed of their hair in their historical context, on one side is a deep sense of national pride, and yet, at the same time, they feel that they and their culture are being ‘invaded’ and ‘occupied’ by a ‘stranger’. this brings about a deep, contradictory and paradoxical dialogue and a redefinition of the ‘self’ between the local viewers and I as the creator that is very significant and intriguing. an unusual interaction is unveiled. thus, as one art critic wrote in a positive tone, “united nations project is parodying the role of the cultural colonialist.”

as the whole working process with its extremely diverse races and cultural environments charts its seven year course, the intellectual and physical working situations will be defined as ‘in’ and ‘out’, ‘inwards’ and ‘outwards’, ‘integration’ and ‘separation’, ‘identity’ and ‘otherness’, ‘respect’ and ‘attack’, ‘paradox’ and ‘harmony’.

in one particular instance, an united nations audience member said, “it is our people’s hair, it should be done by our hands.” these simple words clearly present both sides, the local culture and i are ‘otherized’, just like being in a pure “oxygen box”; both sides become identitiless on the psychological level through the creation of the new. it also leaves a very strong desire to redefine identities - a wonderful and exciting paradox. there is the contrast between this single body material, “hair” and plural races’ ‘identities’ throughout the whole project; and yet, this single body material will be transformed into “multi-cultured hair”. i call this a “great simplicity” which will transcend to a “universal identity”. it is ‘great’ because of its diverse richness; it is ‘simple’ because it uses the single material of human hair.

moreover, united nations national divisional monuments are not totally separate entities. they are like a “chain” with each successive monument building upon the previous ones. each becomes more complex, diverse and later on reaches a finalization which unites all of the national monuments. occasionally, i “link” two or three of the divisional works together to heighten the disparities concerning certain world issues. for instance, the combined swedish and russian monument will address the building confrontation between eastern and western europe in the post-cold war era as part of stockholm’s international exhibition, interpol, in January, 1996. a triple-focused egyptian - chinese - italian monument could make strong reference to three distinct religious and cultural milestones of civilizations. and a mighty china - usa coupling could broach the paramount ideological and sociological structural oppositions between two world powers. ultimately however, all of these divisional monuments and their respective concerns will blend together in the american based finale of united nations project.




“subject represents subject”
human body as battleground, human body material as conviction

united nations art project has been challenged by two conceptual sources: the human body myth and multi-civilization. i believe that these two factors have been generating new human perspectives and subverting our traditional practices. in reaching the end of our modern society, facing the new millennium, we are committed not only to cultural conflicts such as west versus east in bio/geo/cultural transitions, but even more significantly, we become increasingly amazed and frightened by our bio-science and genetic research which now has the potential to confront us with an artificially generated new species, including an “artificial human”. we are driven by our nature even as we call into question the ethical and moral characteristics of that nature.

sixty years ago, aldous huxley published his shocking book, brave new world in 1932 and in 1993 andrew kimbrell wrote, the human body shop; they both open up the brilliant and darker sides of “modern existence to the full light of public scrutiny. today, huxley’s vision is fast becoming commonplace. engineering principles and mass production techniques are rushing head-long into the interior regions of the biological kingdom, invading the once sacred texts of life. the genetic code has been broken and scientists are rearranging the very blueprints of life. they are inserting, deleting, recombining, editing and programming genetic sequences within and between species, laying the foundation for a second creation - an artificial evolution designed with market forces and commercial objectives in mind. we have traded away our very souls for the going price of our own parts in the global marketplace. global corporations are swarming over the human body, expropriating every available organ, tissue, and gene. it is now up to us to perform the exorcism, to free ourselves from the grip of the fast approaching brave new world.”1

the first instance of this cross-species organ transplantation was in 1984 with the celebrated case of baby fae who received the heart of a baboon in a futile attempt to save her life. six years later, immunologist dr. j. michael mccune began a series of successful experiments in which he transplanted human fetal tissues and organs such as the thymus, liver and lymph nodes into mice born without immune systems. in only a few days, the organ subparts and tissues grew in the mice, engendering them with cells of the human immune system. called, “humanized mice”, they were then infected with diseases such as leukemia or aids so that the resulting viruses could be carefully studied. transplantation within our own species has reached new questionable depths with two cases in which women desired to use their own fetal tissue for medical purposes. in one case, a woman proposed being artificially inseminated by her father so the genetically identical cells could be used to treat his alzheimer’s disease. in a related instance, a woman wanted to abort her own fetus in order to use the pancreas cells to treat her severe diabetic condition.

in 1995, a controversial event was reported when a baby mouse was given a human ear. “the mouse’s engineered ear appeared publicly in september as part of the university of massachusetts medical center’s 25th anniversary exhibit under the title, ‘tissue engineering? ears to you.’ it is but one example of what the school’s research is producing as the medical center begins its next 25 years.” (time magazine, nov. 27, 1995). there was an article titled return to genesis of eden? appeared in surrogate fathers new scientist 31 jan. 1998 on line reported roger short of the royal women’s hospital in melbourne “one of the world’s leading reproductive biologists has applied for funding to transplant cells from human testes into those of mice. the aim is to create mice that produce human sperm.”

further more, the recent successful science experiments of mammal cloning, brain transplant, etc. have predicted that human cloning is close at hand, leading towards the creation of artificial humans.

history tells us that we as humans are the center of the universe. from this stand point, human research and knowledge is directed outwards; we manipulate, even mistreat everything from our centric human position. lately, our outward intention has generated crisis beside benefits; looking inwards became a trend, reaching back to our body as a great unknown myth. the material and substantial world is authenticity and priority; human knowledge is always secondary to it.

since 1988, i turned my artistic focus on the human body and its primal substance. the first series of art work is under the title of “oedipus refound”. within this series, I’ve chosen particular human body materials with highly charged cultural and political taboos. while I understand that any kind of artistic medium has no unique identity today, by elevating the human body material, it has been my intent to transcend it to an extreme global level. oedipus refound #1: the enigma of blood, was a collaboration involving sixty women from sixteen countries. each woman contributed her used sanitary tampons and napkins from one month’s cycle with her deeply personal writings in terms of her issues regarding menstruation. this piece has generated astonishing and thought-provoking controversies; it also crosses civilizational borders as people have described it as “hitting the core of human existence”. following #1 is oedipus refound #2, enigma of birth and oedipus refound #3, enigma beyond joy and sin.3  using whole human placenta as well as the placenta ground as a powder (collected through a friend working in a maternity hospital in china), i categorized them into normal, abnormal, aborted and still born placenta and pure placenta powders. these pieces narrate a polarized multicultural concern; the use of this material addresses highly charged issues in the west, but in china, its significance becomes elevated as the placenta is a precious, medicinal tonic. “unlike the use of other impersonal materials, human substance in itself is rich cultural and symbolic connotations. as such, not only does it refer to the work as signifier but is itself the signified.”4

i wrote about the oedipus refound series in 1991. these works are dedicated to her, him, us, and our times. the oedipus myth is one of the most representative ancient allegories about our being, nature and knowledge. these pieces intend to define us: we are the modern oedipus, caught in the chaos of the modern enigma. from our blind indulgence since ancient times we are still looking, our knowledge is still extending and the chaotic enigma of the modern oedipus still continues.

since 1989, the concept of this series utilizes special human body materials as the subject basis. pure human body materials have no element of visual or linguistic illusion in themselves. they are the antithesis of art as object exhibited in the museums and galleries. they are as real as the people who look at them and therefore can penetrate us with a deep sense of spiritual presence. therefore i call them, “silent-selves.” each type of human body material that i use in the work passes an unusual deconstruction process; because of this, i also call it, “post-life.”

the concept of the “thinking body” as opposed to the “thinking mind” deconstructs and abstracts the human body material from the normal system of the body. this has profound implications on the notion of “essence of body” and “essence of spirituality” as well as challenging our ideas regarding birth and death. my working methods invade and transcend the “silent selves” and “post-life” beyond convention, morality, mortality, religion and civilization on the whole.

a side from social, political, sexual and religious considerations, the art historical significance lies in my elimination of representation in art. whereas art history has traditionally been about an object represented through a medium; in my investigations of this concept, the only materials which escapes the notion of the art historical object are the human body. human nature is the ultimate and only “subject” in the universe.

“to speak of gu’s work strictly as a metaphor for body politics would be telling only half of the story. for him - as for kiki smith, lorna simpsom, robert gober - the body is certainly a battleground. yet, in his work, the combatant strategy is concealed from us. for all its emphasis on contemporary debates, this art retains a rich, nonpolemical ambiguity. gu uses body material both as subject and medium, whereas kiki smith whose art has often been mentioned in relation to his, works with non-body materials to evoke human forms...however, by selecting actual bodily growth, gu escapes the traditional artistic practice of using a medium solely as a vehicle to convey representation.” 5

the separation and opposition between subject and object melts in the shared experience of viewers and those who contributed the original material, and in the shared identity of the physical and psychological, and spiritual.” 6

els van der plas explained, “five cradles were lined on the bottom with different kinds of placenta powder. a glass plate protected the inside of the cradle from curious fingers. the middle cradle, which contains no powder, displayed a sign with the message that this baby was aborted; a rather shocking statement. with the empty cradle, symbolizing death, and with the placenta powder, wenda confronted the visitor with the conflicts between nature and artificial society.

the placenta powder as well as the hair are in a way excrement, in the sense that they come from the body. the vulnerability of these human substances and at the same time the association with violence (showing hair without a body) harassed the visitors and made them recognize their own nakedness.

wenda applied the medicine which is made from ‘giving birth’. the concept of the ‘cycles of life’ was also presented by symbols of giving birth, dying and burying.”7
as every national monument in united nations project is a large scale architectural work constructed by pure local human hair, each work requires huge amounts of shorn hair. a long period of time is needed to collect the local hair; the process usually involves the participation of about twenty to forty barbershops over a three to four month duration. this specific working process provides a concept: the mountains of human waste are transformed into local cultural monuments. when the local audience and I are before the “hair” monuments, it is as if the waste material is reincarnated with human spirituality.

there is a fascinating effect which creates an psychological and physical impact when amounts of human hair become solid hair bricks, hair curtain walls, and hair carpets etc. it is an absolute process of reincarnation: from “body waste” to “bio/cultural monument.” in stockholm, the contemporary center for art and architecture will use a local factory’s facilities to produce human hair products. imagine the process: living people’s outgrowth goes through inanimate machines to be “pressed”, “toasted”, and “cut” into hair bricks and carpets forms. i feel the concept goes beyond our language’s capacity to define its precise meanings. it is far deeper than simply “body recycling or casting” the human “soul” into “hair bricks or hair carpets”. this strange combination of real human substances processed by man made machines makes the traditional art mediums such as wood, metal, stone, etc. seem much less expressive to say the least. i call it, “absolute body obsession.”

the human body myth is as equally infinite as the universal myth. hence, the priority of human body material itself is a signifier which does not necessarily needed language’s assistance to convey certain meanings as most inhuman materials do. when human body materials are reincarnated as an art creation, the significance come from the inside of the body materials. the difference between using human body materials and inhuman objects creates opposing definitions: ‘internal’ versus ‘external.’ the human body materials’ ‘internal definition’ parallels the viewers’ psychological and physical conditions. when viewers behold the works with human body materials, they are literally encountering themselves. on the contrary, inhuman objective materials are inherently distanced from viewers. this psychological and physical gap therefore needs linguistic assistance to bridge the gap between the object and subject, between inhuman objective material and the viewing audience.

in addition as to how i have already stated the concept of using the human body material, i feel it is privileged in yet another way. i constantly have a battle with our “ready made knowledge”, our “convention”. i discussed this controversy in a letter regarding my installation, oedipus refound #3: enigma beyond joy and sin. the following is an excerpt: “talking about the cruelty of the work, i certainly disagree with you. the placenta have been used and continue to be used in the west for commercial products such as make-up. ‘cruelty and warmth’ are mere expressions of the artistic value of a work and of human existence. nobody criticizes the greek writer sophocles as a cruel person because he created the tragedy ‘oedipus the king’. nowadays, no well cultured person would criticize or react against shakespeare for having written tragedies like ‘hamlet’, ‘macbeth’, ‘king lear’, ‘othello’, as ‘cruelty’ is a structural part of human nature, before and beyond any moralistic judgment. i suppose you well know that there is no evil without good. such a kind of intellectual or emotional separation is artificial, it is just an illusion. trying to avoid, not to see, not to recognize it, becomes structurally a sort of deviation from the understanding of human beings' natural process of life, and it is, in the end, a kind of expression of spiritual weakness and cowardice, as well as of a one-sided and restricted approach to life. this attitude becomes also a denial of the relativity of any so called ‘truth’ or ‘value’, and it is in itself unnatural, that is to say contradicting nature in itself...sophocles and shakespeare are actually rightly respected as passionate persons loving life, knowledge and insightfully able to express human existence, ‘misunderstanding’ and ‘blindness’, while representing human ‘cruelty’ as a natural and structural element in life.” 8

the human body material contains enormous meanings and myth. the metaphor concerns birth, death, and all the enigmatic, unsolved questions in life. the discovery of using human body material in art unveiled the edges between our shocking reality and conventional knowledge which has created a particular ‘reality’ we believe in, the illusionistic ready-made values and faiths.

as a striking result of the oedipus refound series’ deep involvement with human body materials, i have found myself in the position of being a strong defendant of our reality, without believing in illusionistic values and transposed faiths. it has often been rejected by current political correctness. the responses the works receives are usually ones of great extremes such as ‘hate’ or ‘love’; either the audience leaves with exceptional inner impressions or difficult conflicts. we can clearly see that an audience may rediscover many issues and pose many questions; i too ask many questions which remain unanswered enigmatically by me and my viewing audience. a challenge can provoke a ‘shocking’ response if it contains intelligence and deliberation; this ‘shocking’ phenomenon evolves from various sources, which is the ‘shocking’s’ essence, while ‘shocking’ is actually only the phenomenon.

the confrontation of enormous enigmatic connotations in the human body material itself (the “internal definition”) and the intense reactions, elaborations, misunderstandings from the viewing public (“external definition”) give rise to an enigmatic complex between consciousness and unconsciousness which almost becomes an unsolvable predicament. because of the human body products’ beauty, sensitivity, fearful relation to the viewer, the call of birth and death, the fright of being waste material, the overall reactions to this work ranges from severe “repulsion” and “disgust” to puzzling queries, then ultimately, “it is us.”

the appreciation, interpretation of a piece of art from the centric human being, from looking out from the objective universe to looking in on “ourselves” brings about deep misunderstandings which is what mankind's knowledge is all about....there is battle....there is conviction.....which we apply to ourselves.

1 jeremy rifkin, the foreword of andrew kimbrell’s book, the human body shop, harper collins, san francisco, 1993.

2 the original title of this work was two thousand natural deaths at hatley martin gallery, san francisco, 1990, curated by peter selz and katherine cook. it has been exhibited at hong kong arts center, hanart gallery in hong kong, museum of contemporary art sydney, melbourne international festival 1992, western art gallery of australia, the artists’ museum, lodz, poland, vancouver art gallery.

3 it has been exhibited at modern art museum oxford, england, main gallery of university of rhode island, ise art foundation gallery, alternative museum, new york city, wexner center for the arts, ohio, us, kroller-muller museum, the netherlands.

4 johnson chang, the other face, asian art news, july/august, 1995, pp.41-43, hong kong.

5 danielle chang, united nations-american division, united nations-american monument catalogue,




“Hair-itage”-vast human hair ocean
merges universal identity for united nations project

united nations art project is committed to a single human body material-pure human hair. hair is a signifier and metaphor extremely rich in history, civilization, science, ethnicity, timing, even economics. Along the project’s diverse journey, it brings one single nation’s identity (one national monumental work) to multi-nation’s identities (as many as twenty national monuments works) to human universal identity (unified national monuments for the final ceremony of united nations project).

this human body outgrowth or “waste” throughout united nations project becomes the great human “hair-itage”.1  it becomes a geo/national/cultural identity “melting pot”.

following are excerpts from various articles on united nations project about hair in different historical, cultural, ethnic and religious contexts:
“...from Samson to freud has known. power is inherent in those slender outgrowths of the epidermis, those pigmented filaments that are among the most animalistic and intimate elements of the human body. not all hair is pubic, but as psychoanalysts well know, the most innocuous remark about beard, mustache, or hairstyle is a loaded and coded comment from which can be deciphered all manner of information about libido, superego, and sexuality. hair can be a signifier not only of virility and femininity but of race, ethnicity and age. and as history can attest - from the pigtail of china’s final dynasty to the powdered wig in monarchist france, from the military crewcut to the rebellious hippie mane or the militant afro, from the punk mohawk to skinhead hairlessness - how we style our scalps has since time immemorial singled allegiances and complicities in the political and spiritual realms.”2

“like teeth and nails, hair remains intact after it is separated from the human body. alone, each hair strand contains enough dna to unlock our individual genetic makeup. like a fingerprint, it can be held as evidence at the scene of a crime.”3

(for instance, in the case of the native american), of human vital force. hair was and still is someway considered as ‘the location of the soul’.

saint’s locks are considered as holy relics, they are worshiped and accurately preserved by the catholic church.

if the hair is shorn or cut it implies renunciation and sacrifice, its free growth historically had the significance of assertion of power and superiority, of royalty, as well as, in other cultures and other historical ages, that of refusal of social limits and laws constituting the state organization (american hippies and beatniks).

...it can be an allusion to the power of the main question concerning the enigma of birth and death, probably shared by the same mankind with a universe ‘created’ by the explosion known as the ‘big bang’ and destined to die, according to the law of entropy.”4

the real power of united nations art project is that it is not only an artistic representation, it embodies living people’s presence through this hair wall.

1 james servin, global hairballs: sculptures celebrate culture of nations, the associated press, april, 1995, new york city.

2 kim levin, splitting hairs: wenda gu’s frimal projects and material misunderstandings, united nations-italy monument catalogue, enrico gariboldi arte contemporanea, milan, italy, 1994.

3 danielle chang, united nations-american division, united nations-america monument catalogue, space untitled, new york city, 1995.

4 monique sartor, united nations, united nations-italy monument catalogue, enrico gariboldi arte contemporanea, milan, italy, 1994.




fusion of human nature(hair)with artificial nature(language)
fusion of different races(hairs)with different cultures(languages)

by faking chinese ancient seal script(the seal script, the oldest form of chinese language, was for the first time unified by the first emperor of china qing shi huang), it plays a double conceptual game. it is unreadable for both chinese and non-chinese; it is also unidentifiable whether the script is real or fake to both chinese and non-chinese audience. the concept of the unidentified chinese language could be translated by chinese as the mythos of lost history; it can also be interpreted by non-chinese as misunderstandings of exotic culture. in general, the miswritten language symbolizes “misunderstanding” as the essence of our knowledge concerning the universe and material world. yet, the pseudo-scripts help us reach infinity and eternity by imagining the universe which is out-of-reaching of mankind knowledge(language). further more, faking our languages is a way to express our fear, anxiety, and distrust of our knowledge as well as putting human languages in a predicament of absurdity and irony.

by juxtaposing and interweaving of pseudo-english, chinese, hindi and arabic languages, it introduces not only the misunderstandings within a single culture but also in a way symbolically unveils the conflicts of “co-existence” of bio/geo/cultural multism; on other side, “multism” isn’t a new thing after centuries of bio/geo/cultural exchange. the truth is there isn’t “purity” in the world. it is indeed, a fantasy of self awareness and the fear of losing oneself in a classical term of originality. however, by learning other culture isn’t just to enrich self, but simultaneously also to “otherize” oneself as well. so, face this co-existence of fake languages, english speakers cant read english, chinese people wouldn’t recognize chinese etc.. in fact, risk losing self originality and history to reconstruct self by opening self up to be influenced by others, or maintaining virtual purity of self by refusing others’ influences. this is not a new issue, but it is intensified in our daily practice in our era.

abstracting the traditional definitions from existing languages is in a way repositioning us in a unprecedented unknown world. therefore the multi-pseudo-language-coexistence prays for our future.




delving into diverse cultures, capturing national identities
profoundness at the final ceremony of united nations

once upon a time there was an old man who desired to remove a high mountain. he told this to his wife and children. they laughed at him and said, “how could this be possible? are you crazy?!” the old man said, “it is possible. we shovel one piece after one piece, day by day...year by year we will continue to shovel. after a while, the mountain will become smaller and smaller. if we can’t finish, our grandchildren will continue...generation after generation. no matter how high the mountain is, it must be removed...” this is an ancient fable from chinese folklore.

in the beginning of 1993, i decided to act upon my ideas concerning this united nations art project. i felt its realization could be a profound symbol of our new global bio/geo culture in our present historical moment. i would not be satisfied to simply collect hair from different parts of the world and then complete the project. i unconsciously knew there were greater depths to explore. in the spring of that year, an intriguing idea came to me; i would make national divisional monuments in many strategic countries around the world and then unify them in a final ceremony of united nations project.

this deliberation brought about a conceptual strategic method; i believe that a strong methodology is a binding hinge to any project. from this framework, i have a clear working structure allowing me to build national divisional monuments throughout this seven-year process. these individual monuments are the bio/geo/historical culture signifiers to united nations project. this concept constantly presents confrontations with diverse local people and their psycho/physical histories and cultures. with the national events’ intense multiplicity in terms of phenomenological issues, it is hardly a conceivable contingency a with bio/geo culture in the making. that is why i use this chinese fable; the challenge and the inspiration are the elevations of my ability. the contingent difficulties are integral parts of the conception. at times, i am breathless thinking about how i will shape these national monuments in such diverse civilizations. following are united nations art project completed national monuments:

#1, united nations-poland monument: hospitalized history museum
a site-specific installation for 4th construction in process.
polish hair, local mental hospital sheets, beds, and the collections of history museum of lodz.
courtesy history museum of lodz & the artists museum, lodz, poland, 1993

#2, united nations-italy monument: god & children
a site-specific installation
an italian temple is constructed entirely by italian hair bricks, hair curtain walls, hair carpets, and hair column
courtesy enrico gariboldi arte contemporanea, milan, italy, 1994

#3, united nations-holland monument: v.o.c.-w.i.c.*
a site-specific installation for heart of darkness
pure dutch hair curtain walls, hair rooms, hair carpets(mixed with ripping pages of dutch colonial history books)composes a boat
courtesy the kroller-muller museum, the netherlands, 1994
*v.o.c. & w.i.c. were dutch east indian & west indian shipping companies during dutch colonial periods

#4, united nations-usa monument 1: post-cmoellotniinaglpiostm*
a site-specific installation
the entire installation is constructed by pure and mixed native-, caucasian-, latino-, and asian-american hair curtain walls, hair bricks, and hair carpets. a future national flag of the usa made of also mixed american hair.
courtesy space untitled gallery, new york city, usa, 1995
*a nonsensical word created by synthesizing “melting pot” & “colonialism”

#5, united nations-israel monument: the holy land
a site-specific permanent landart for fifth construction in process
thirty jewish hair covered jerusalem pink limestone in mitzpe ramon desert
courtesy israeli cultural minister& the artists museum tel-aviv center, israel, 1995

#6, united nations-sweden & russia monument: interpol
a site-specific installation for international exhibition interpol
an eighty four feet swedish hair tunnel, a rocket of swedish royal airforce, an european community flag
courtesy center for contemporary art & architecture, stockholm, sweden, contemporary art center of moscow, the event took place in stockholm, 1996

#7, united nations-usa monument 2: dreamerica
a site-specific installation
part one, american history: four american hair made flags which have never existed in american history but invented based on reality: british colonial flag, free & slave flag, confederate flag, and gold flag.
part two, american presence: a giant eagle wingspan(made of mixed caucasian-, african-, hispanic, asian-american hair)in a metal cage.
part three, future: post-national flag of the united states of america. this flag is composed by one star in the five races’ mixed hair field; five horizontal strips made of(from top to bottom)native-, caucasian-, africa-, hispanic-, asian-american hair.
a video project the new face of america collaborates with time magazine. a virtual woman face generated by computer from seven american races(photo morphing: kin wah lam of time magazine)
courtesy time magazine, steibaum krauss gallery, new york city, usa, 1996

#8, united nations-britain monument: the maze
a site-specific installation
a light box covered by nine hundred dried asian poppy flowers and surrounded by british shorn hair. a entirely british hair made curtain with one english sentence in chinese classical written format, “once upon a time there was a british merchant who said(past tense)imagine if every chinese wears one more inch of clothing(present tense)”
a british garden “maze” is constructed by british hair made union jack; complete national flags of british commonwealth and british shorn hair.
courtesy angel row gallery in nottinghaem, camerawork in london, england, 1996

#9, united nations-taiwan monument: the mythos of lost dynasties
a site-specific installation
a chinese graveyard constructed by a series of giant ink wall paintings & taiwanese shorn hair(as the lawn of the graveyard). a performance blackness.
courtesy hanart gallery, taipei, taiwan, 1997

#10, united nations-hong kong monument: the historical clash
a site-specific installation for hong kong handover 1997
part one, a british union jack made of british hair
part two, a chinese flag with chinese hair made pseudo-chinese ancient seal script
part three, a qing dynasty “daybed” covered with dried asian poppy flowers
part four, a british hair made hanging piece with an english sentence in chinese written form
part five, hong kong shorn hair surrounded by two hundred ponds of rice
courtesy hanart gallery, hong kong, 1997

#11, united nations-africa monument: the world praying wall
a site-specific installation for second johannesburg biennale
the hair(collected from over three hundred barbershops around the world) made four pseudo-languages(english, chinese, hindi, arabic)& world ethnical maps composed a giant curtain wall(40 feet x 44 feet). a collaborative performance with south african choreographer nomsa manaka
courtesy institute of contemporary art, johannesburg, south africa, 1997

#12, united nations-vancouver monument: the metamorphosis
a site-specific installation composed by #1, three vancouver caucasian and asian hair walls(hair made fake english wall, fake chinese wall and fake english-chinese wall, 20feet x 24feet each); #2, 4 world ethnical map columns made of human hair collected from 300 hundred barbershops around the world, 13feet x 4feet x 4feet each); #3, video document of confucius diary-vancouver
courtesy morris & helen belkin gallery, the university of british columbia, vancouver, canada, 1998

#13, united nations-china monument: temple of heaven
a site-specific installation commissioned by the asia society for inside out
an entirely human hair made temple(13’ x 52’ x 20’)of pseudo-chinese, english, hindi, arabic and synthesized english-chinese(ceiling). the hair has been collected from over three hundred twenty five barbershops and hair salons in poland, italy, the netherlands, the united states of american, israel, russia, sweden, england, hong kong, taiwan, south africa, canada, japan, korea, france, china.
a meditation setting of chinese ming dynasty’s furniture: naked tv monitors on 12 lamp chair, 8 spring stools, 2 tea tables. made of huang hua li wood.
a video film heaven.
courtesy asia society, ps1 contemporary art center, 1998




Brave mankind, brave new world
united nations art project is brought to the historical moment

the location of the final ceremony for united nations art project. in 1993, time magazine's cover story proclaimed that, “our colors are changing.” in 1994, time once again predicted, “a rebirth of a nation,” with a female portrait on the cover generated from a mix of several races: middle eastern, italian, african, vietnamese, anglo-saxon, chinese and hispanic, telling the story of, “how immigrants are shaping the world’s first multicultural society: the new race of America”.

from a california buddhist temple to new york’s statue of liberty; from chinatown to disneyland; from harlem to miami...the multi-bio/geo/cultural integration has been created and is creating a new brave race in the world, in mankind’s history.

new york city is conceptually the ideal location where i hope to finalize the ceremony of this art project united nations. the following is the analysis of united nations project final ceremony’s location.

rewriting the definition of “America”
migration has shaped america. six thousand years ago, native americans migrated to this wilderness from asia across siberia. christopher columbus brought euro-caucasian settlements to this wonderland. the african slaves have influenced american culture-american black culture. the chinese built american railroads etc... this legendary land has become a dream full of hope, chance, and bio/geo/cultural conflicts, a dream without precedent in mankind’s history. following are two astonishing numbers: the american norwegian population is larger than the population in norway and the population in the netherlands is smaller than the american dutch. biological intermixing is far more authentic and essential than multi-cultural exchange. the definition of “american” in the future will not be single raced identity. being an american in the future will be a brave new racial identity. this will be an astonishing future reality




wenda gu

new york city 1995
a short version new york city 1998