Nina Yuen

by Marta Gnyp for Zoo Magazine #26

After completing a residency at the prestigious Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in 2009, American performance and video artist Nina Yuen moved to New York this year. She is known for her short, mysterious videos, where she acts as the protagonist and the narrator, her mesmerizing voice explaining the story behind the images.

Yuen’s films are dreamlike diaries or fictitious personal memories; she says they are often reenactments of traumas or events that have happened to her, her friends or her family. The rich fantasies, hypnotic scenes, exuberant decor and bizarre costumes compel one to enter her world and become part of its playfully incomprehensible narrative. In White Blindness, Yuen plays a person suffering from a disease that causes one to see nothing but a white glare.

It is a typical example of how she likes to blur the border between life and work: for the project, Yuen spray-painted white every object she had purchased that year. In another film, Tomas, Yuen plays childlike games with her off-screen boyfriend at the time, revealing the playful nature of their relationship in a magical, fictional way. This entanglement between Yuen’s personal life and her work does not mean, however, that she exposes herself to the viewer. The strange decor and fairytale naivetŽ conceal some of her reality. The basis for Yuen’s other film, Clean, was a quotation from Hill’s Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing.

The book by Thomas Hill was written at the end of the 19th century. Yuen chose a fragment from the book that focused on the daily practice of keeping oneself healthy then added her own absurd rituals of cleaning, washing and eating. Poetic and quirky, it combines girly fascination with the eccentricity and powerful imagination of a self-conscious artist.

Images courtesy of Galerie Juliètte Jongma