Sculptures to write Chinese

At Spazio in Milan, the small exhibition “Beyond the senses, the clouds” features engraved figures, ancient characters and sculptures that a Chinese child uses to learn the characters.

Oltre i sensi le nuvole, veduta della mostra, Spazio, Milano 2019

The project of the exhibition “Beyond the senses the clouds” curated by Zhou Yanyang, is promoted by Spazio with the Tsinghua University in Beijing, where Yanyang teaches, and is supported by the China National Arts Fund.
Chinese children must learn a very large number of characters, about 800 by the age of seven and another 2500 by the end of primary school. This is a considerable effort that involves specific and also very ancient learning techniques, as is ancient Chinese. Teaching is still focused on mnemonics, repetition and children’s visual and cognitive ability.

But sometimes it is possible to follow other paths as well.
So Zhou Yanyang decides to stimulate Wiko Chen, her seven-year-old son, a very gifted child, to understand the relationship between man and nature in Chinese philosophy and cultural history, starting with a small number of signs that constantly recur within the almost 50,000 Chinese characters. Figurative writing has allowed most words to retain their power of concrete expression intact. The exhibition shows fifteen Chinese characters that are composed of two elements, one human, one natural, plus the abstract concept of “but”. A natural event is used to explain it intuitively. In nature the snake eats the sparrow but in turn is eaten by the eagle. The Chinese character is therefore formed by a snake and a bird. It is assumed that the bird is both sparrow (weak) and eagle (strong).

“Beyond the senses, the clouds”, fighting
“Beyond the senses, the clouds”, fighting

The sculptures were made of a malleable and coloured material that solidifies and becomes very light. The child did everything by himself, his mother only explained that to consolidate some sculptures he could use straws, the result is really remarkable and the exhibition elegant and effective.

“Oltre i sensi le nuvole” / “Beyond the senses, the clouds”
Curated by:
Zhou Yanyang
via Lazzaro Spallanzani, 19 Milano
30 November 2019

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