My post is responding to the second question/area of interest listed on the blog: "The “Home” as a cultural construct. Investigating the histories of the food we eat, the clothes we wear, even the games we play."

The “Home” is a place that offering affection and security to its residents, however, as a cultural construct, home can be interpreted in various ways based on the experience and memory of the storyteller. For instance, a child in Syria may read "home" as "shelter" or "refugee camp", and a survivor of a concentration camp may read "home" as “heaven” or "dream land". A fisherman who sail in the sea may read "home" as the "boat" or "island", and a warrior may read "home" as "families" instead of a "house". An immigrant may read "home" as "place he/she rise", but at the same time, may read "home" as "hometown" or the place he/she "originally from".

I would like to explore the possibility of use multiple media of art to examine, comment on, subvert, interpret, or emphasize home as information, and addresses critical concerns such as politics, violence, women, racism, immigration, healthcare, the Earth, etc. Open to any type of collaborations.

In my recent creative practice, I used illustration and augmented reality as media and used animals as symbol to display the metaphorical similarity of issues in human society. For instance, the Segregated Water Fountains (one illustration from my installation work Unvarnished Story) represents the injustice of treatment to animals. The ‘pet’ water fountain is visibly more luxurious than the ‘food animals’. We can therefore see straight away that the image is simply evidence of controversial inequality. Our human race segregate animals to groups for sentimental reasons and consumption purposes, and ignores the fact that all are living creatures that share existence with human beings and deserve to be free. This has a metaphorical similarity that reminds us the segregation of black and white people in America during 1950s. Till today the injustice still existed in our society, more obviously in criminal trial. The augmented reality animation of Segregated Water Fountains expands the metaphor to a broader topic by showing the prejudice on the external figure that caused a grey color humanoid character wearing "police skin coat" pulled the trigger and shot another grey color humanoid character who wear a "black skin sport suit", despite the fact that their internal characteristics are all the same. The audio was extracted from BBC news: St Louis: Unrest after police killing of teenager, to give audience more context to the reality. You can watch the documentary of this piece at here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6V4o9KcSis

Again, anyone who would be interested in this topic, don't hesitate to reply with your thoughts. I look forward to potential collaborations!

Dengke Chen

Artist of Unvarnished Story





  1. Pranay Dutta | 10.25.2017

    Hi Dengke,

    I too, find your process quite interesting. I was interested to know as to whether you build a narrative through the interactive videos or do they act as individual works trying to talk about one thing. The reason I ask this is that since one needs to interact with your works on a one on one level, I wonder how the viewer goes about all the videos and connects it to form his own line of narrative. Secondly, I get a feeling or a sense of humour/mockery in your works. It would be nice to know if that’s something you intend upon. Another question I had was that, Have you considered making an interaction happen between a video and a video and not a video and a photograph? I felt that the photographs played a passive role while the interactive video was on. How would it be to have a video interacting with a video where both are actively involved during the interaction? Thanks.

  2. Nathi Khumalo | 10.4.2017

    Hello Dengke

    Your project is very interesting and the different interpertation of the meaning of “Home as a construct ”
    I love how you are able to give that one sentence different meanings and articluate that meaning.
    I think you approach to installation is as amazing to see how you change a work from 2D image to 3D using table and that actually gives the work more of an interactive response.

    Another aspect of the concept that you raise is how humans have begun to segregate animals according to consumption or pets, thinks is key information. In reponse i think that capitalism plays a very big role in this and how they are altering our perception towards this.

    • Dengke Chen | 10.5.2017


      Richard Harris in “Residential Segregation and Class Formation in the Capitalist City: A Review and Directions for Research” says “The residential segregation of social classes is a distinctive feature of the capitalist city. Today we are inclined to take it for granted. Historically, however, it appeared in its present form only with the rise of industrial capitalism.”

      But it is interesting to see that the segregation as a byproduct of capitalism somehow conflicts with capitalism business and caused debates and political unrest over centuries. For instance, from the end of post-Civil War Reconstruction, Southern states and cities passed laws of segregate citizens purely on the basis of race. The laws were imposed by Southern governments, and for-profit businesses frequently resisted or ignored segregation laws, often for reasons that had nothing to do with a desire for racial equality or justice. But businesses, unlike governments, have to earn a profit to survive. Most railroad managers would rather operate one passenger car, full; than operate one car half-full of black customers and another car half-full of white folks.

      Economist Thomas Sowell cites several examples of for-profit businesses resisting segregation laws in his book Preferential Policies, An International Perspective: Segregation into smoking and non-smoking sections is significant because it was done on the initiative of streetcar companies themselves, while some of those same companies publicly opposed the imposition of racially segregated seating by law when such legislation was first proposed. Even after such Jim Crow laws were passed, the streetcar company in Mobile initially refused to comply, and in Montgomery it was reported in the early years that black people simply continued to sit wherever they pleased.


  3. Kate Mcelroy | 10.3.2017

    The interactive element of the video with the photographs is very interesting, Did you find allowing the viewer to become more involved making them less passive made the stories more real for them even though it is game like and with the use of animals? It raises questions of how ‘real’ do we experience the news stories we encounter and the effects of violent video games on sensitivity.

    I wrote about viewer participation for my thesis. Claire Bishop in ‘Artificial hells: participatory art and the politics of spectatorship’ says ‘The most striking projects that constitute participatory art unseat all the polarities on which the discourse is founded (individual/collective, author/spectator, active/passive, real life/art) but not with the goal of collapsing them. In doing so they hold the artistic and social critiques in tension.’ I think this is a good example of that!


    • Dengke Chen | 10.6.2017

      Hello Kate, Thanks for share your insights on this project! I love the “viewer participation” and “polarities” you addressed! The benefit of engage viewer participation to art is “spark moments” or issues may arise especially when controversial topic is included in the art. As a new media artist, I enjoyed the process of triggering audience critically reflect on the reality through multiple storylines, either real or fictional. Your input also reminds me Gayle Marie Weitz’s wood sculpture Humanimals, a series of twelve anthropomorphized figures that address a variety of relationships between humans and other animals. Each wooden cabinet depicts an animal idiom (such as “pigheaded” or “harebrained”) on the outside, with text and images describing how humans typically treat that animal on the inside (such as pig factory farming or vivisection). By reflecting the issues through exterior and interior of the sculpture using multiple storyline and engaging audience to interact with the sculpture, Weitz presents how “real” the topics are related to the audience. – Dengke

  4. Grazia | 10.1.2017

    What you say about the different meanings of ‘home’ is very interesting. What ‘home’ is depends on the context, the circumstances, the situation of the person thinking of ‘home’.
    I am not sure I understand what you mean by ‘home as information’. Can you explain?
    It was to see, at the end of your video, and actual exhibition where the viewers could hold the small screen in front of the photographs on the wall, actually enacting what the video shows. Where was that exhibition? How did the viewers respond? Thank you.

    • Dengke Chen | 10.1.2017

      Hello Grazia, thanks for asking!

      When I wrote “interpret, or emphasize home as information” I was mean rather than only use forms of media (ex. photography, illustration, augmented reality, etc.) to document and emphasize the physical presence of “home”, I would given more weight on use art to reflect the information and stories of its residents, which may address different concerns in front of audiences worldwide.

      To answer your second question, it was a video about my installation Unvarnished Story that I exhibited in Hand Art Center in Florida, and is currently displaying at Alexandria Museum of Art in LA and Ralwins Art Gallery in GA. The audiences love the hands-on approach interactions, and spent time on discovering the pieces of stories on each illustration.


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