Artist review about conceptual artist PEI for the catalogue of the show 14 at Stewart Hall 2012
written by Alexis Williams
Liu, Pei Wen is an exchange student in the Open Media department at Concordia University from the Valand School of Art in
Sweden. Her interdisciplinary work explores ethereal concepts like liminality (the state between states), the fallibility of memory,
the ambiguity of experience and the fragility of the integrity of sound. She is influenced by neo-dada, freeform jazz, avant-garde
electronic music and minimalist painters and composers. Pei has dabbled in a variety of digital domains, but concentrates mainly
on sound art and video. She is a self-taught sound artist and has been recording sounds of nature and human activities since
1999. She uses her substantial archive of sonic observations to build installations in which she turns her field recordings into the
ancestors of soundscape composition as experiments in materializing the immaterial.
Pei’s piece - !situation.knowledge! -demonstrates her use of digital, natural and philosophic resources. The giclee print is made
with photographs of wooden sticks found in the ruin of a baroque garden behind the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart,
Germany. The Sticks form the Mandarin text 一切境歸根於自相 a set of maxims translated from the Tibetan Buddhist
scripts; Hetuvidya, on Buddhist logic and reasoning, which translates roughly to “All experiences are rooted in self-realisation. All
knowledge comes from personal experience.” The paradoxical proverb deals with the understanding of knowledge
(epistemology), and existential philosophy. Originally the self-contradiction was emphasised with the reference to self-evidence.
Each stick, collected after having fallen naturally from trees at a liminal stage of their own existence, was studied and scanned,
their image transformed into strokes of characters and arranged into these words. The fact that the proverb is being expressed
through a facsimile of sticks without the sticks having ever actually formed these words and that the words and meaning itself has
been distorted through several translations, puts into question the nature of knowledge. The author, the sticks, the artist and
now the artifact have all existed in different places and contexts and each add to the meaning of the message, demonstrating the
multitude of variables available to distort all knowledge. The artist’s reinterpretation substantiates the message’s warning that
true knowledge can only come through firsthand experience. The piece in its ambiguity illustrates the truth of the message: that it is
meaningless unless already understood by the viewer.