Interview: Donglai Meng
Luca Curci talks with Donglai Meng during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021 at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space and at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Donglai Meng (b.1994, China) is a visual artist currently based in the Netherlands. Her interest originates from the study of psychoanalysis, which reveals the contradiction and split between human consciousness and subconsciousness, which makes her doubt the authenticity of the images that people present in reality. Therefore, her artistic practice is to constantly capture and feel the inner state of human beings in different contexts, such as dreams, fantasies, hallucinations, these subconscious activities that cannot be observed with eyes, she questions their significance for real life. Her works are mainly installations, paintings, short stories, videos and so on. While exploring the mental world of people inward, she also researches the connection between real society and human psychology. She endowed her works with fictional narrative backgrounds, just like building dreams in the real world, making it as insinuations and reflections on real problems, and trying to draw viewers’ attention to their inner experience.
Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Donglai Meng – I am from China, I had my undergraduate degree of oil painting in Rome, Italy, and then I came to the Netherlands to continue study a master program. Now I live and work in the Netherlands as a young artist. The emotional changes triggered by daily experiences have a great influence on me. I like to be alone, so compared with the reality, I am closer to the inner world, that’s also a reason why I am interested in the mental state of contemporary humans.
LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
DM – My research is based on the exploration of the human subconscious world in the theory of psychoanalysis. Dreams, fantasies, trance states and the feelings from my inside are all sources of inspiration for me. I am currently building a world of Hairy-legs, which exists as a bridge between reality and our subconscious world, and plays different roles in different contexts.
LC- Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it like your medium of expression?
DM – I feel my fantasy world is very interesting, so I am also curious about other people. I didn’t plan to express something specifically, because I hope everything is done unconsciously. If you don’t see things too thoroughly, you will retain more ignorant happiness. But I do expect that at a certain moment, my work can evoke other people to re-focus on their own imagination outside the real life, and the feelings that imagination brings.
LC – What is your creative process like?
DM – To be honest, it is very painful. I have to convert a language that only I can understand into a language that can be accepted by more people. Each step raises questions about myself, “What am I going to do”, “Why have to I do this”, “Does this make any sense”, “Am I still alive?” and so on. Fantasy is happy, but work is irritating, specially in reality, I have to do a lot of explanations, and even play an unnatural role. This puts me under a lot of pressure.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
DM – There are many kinds of artists, vanity, silent, exaggerated, knowledgeable… No matter which kind, they are all actually trying to do their best to grow up, because ‘artist’ is really a very slow career. For myself, I am in a period of poverty, loneliness, fear, but freedom. I have nothing, so I am free.
LC – Can you explain something about the video you have in our exhibition?
DM – This work has two storylines, one is a voice recording of me doing hypnosis in Florence, the other is about one of my good friends’ baptizing ceremony at the Christian church in Milan. From the perspective of mental state, my choice of seeking help from psychoanalyst is similar to her original motivation of praying to god. Therefore, in this video, I experiment on how to connect the stories of my friend and me and find the similarities between two different behaviours through the combination of virtuality and reality.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
DM – It was a very realistic topic is also something we all have to face. I have always been interested in the topic of ‘identity’, how we see ourselves and how we see others, they are all related to the recognition and affirmation of ‘identity’.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
DM – Due to various practical reasons, it is a pity that I did not go to the exhibition on site. However, under the pressure of the epidemic, they could firmly complete the exhibition and gave many participants a good result, that is admirable.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
DM – Sure, the whole communication process was very smooth, and people were very nice, a pleasant cooperation.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
DM – Yes, of artists, especially young artists, in addition to providing opportunities, a friendly platform means more affirmation and support in spirit.