UW–Madison graduate students Teresa Audet and Xinchen Li are the winners of the 2023 Arts + Literature Laboratory Prize from the Arts + Literature Laboratory and the School of Education’s Art Department.
The annual ALL Prize exhibition is awarded to one or two graduating MFA candidates from UW–Madison each year, selected by curators on the ALL visual arts team. The prize winners’ MFA thesis exhibitions will be shown at ALL, and they will receive a $1,000 stipend to assist with exhibition expenses and installation provided by the Art Department.
A local Madison community-driven contemporary nonprofit arts organization, the Arts + Literature Laboratory presents over 200 events per year, mostly free or low-cost, and year-round arts education for all ages, working to make the arts more accessible and sustainable in our community.
Audet and Li’s 2023 MFA thesis exhibitions will be shown at ALL from March 17 – April 17, with a reception on Friday, March 24, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Following are the artists’ statements about their work.
“My work seeks to define the shape of indescribable phenomena. What color is trauma or depression? What does anxiety sound like? What shape does hopefulness take in physical form? Utilizing robotics and sound design in conjunction with handcrafted wood and rattan, my thesis exhibition will explore the somatic experiences of mental illness. Through audience interaction and play, I bring a lightheartedness to these heavy topics. By focusing on our both joyous and painful humanity, I aim to remove the shroud of shame from these collective experiences.
I use wood, rattan, handmade paper, and mixed media to create sculptures that utilize the language of furniture, basketry, and the human body. The repetitive craft processes I use are calming to my mind and result in visual repetition; lines and grids are my wandering woven thoughts. I am interested in the nature of utility, the object as vessel for unexpected and emotional interaction, and using humor and absurdity to point to collective social concerns. Kinetics and robotics have recently become a part of my practice as a way to create work that interacts with the viewer in unexpected ways.
For my thesis exhibition, small creatures on vacuum-like robots will wander around the gallery carrying flags with self-care messages, such as “drink more water” and “feelings aren’t facts.” A ghostly figure created from wood and rattan is outfitted with a motion sensor and a motor; its coat of rattling shingles tremors with anxiety when a visitor gets too close. On the wall, wooden and woven vessels pulsate in specific rhythms, simulating breathing exercises for panic attacks.
This work is informed by my own experience with depression, anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD, and many years of CBT, DBT, and EMDR therapies. I choose to work from scientific data alongside my own, and a narrative of resilience rather than suffering. I aim to make work that the audience can see themselves in as much as they see me.”
“My current research continuously focuses on creating an immersive environment. Throughout my research practice, creating a place of memory is a constantly recurring theme.
I am returning to object making and to creating a room in memory/a “time-space” for myself. I chose the furniture from the house I grew up in that has metaphorical and symbolic meanings to me. Recreating the furniture with the 3D-printing pen in life size serves as a flashback to my memories. Besides, because of the fragile material, it also reflects the fictional nature of memory and tactility. I explicitly chose a clock, a bed, a cabinet, a wardrobe, and a sewing machine. And some pieces will be hanging in the air; when lights go through, the shadow of the pattern and portrait that made up the furniture will output another piece on the floor/wall. The remaking process reclaimed my ownership of the family history and memories. At the same time, the design of these old furniture pieces reflects the artisan’s unique aesthetic and craft level in 70s and 80s China. It becomes a mapping of my generation’s cultural background and belonging. I also recorded the sound of the sewing machine and my grandma’s oral stories to play in the show, helping create the immersive environment.”