My proximity to ancestry wavers through moments of elasticity, severance, and confusion over time. When I ask my Mongolian grandmother about her homeland, her dismissal and diversions point to a thick veil of willed forgetting informed by unnamed traumas. Occasionally, we just feel each other, and the yearning to uncover the specificities of our shared history no longer seems quite as urgent. How do you reconcile the chasms between feeling history and learning one? What does it mean to connect to the ancient?
“bodies of water” is a dual portrait of flows. On one side, an aerial survey of a river delta near home—circulating within the traditional and ancestral lands of the Skagit Tribe and Coast Salish Peoples. On the other, a microscopic view of saltwater coursing through the sinews of human flesh (individual identity unknown/lost).
The values that inform my art practice are deeply rooted in attention to care, accountability, and the cultivation of respectful relations with all fellow beings. I seek to embody an understanding of my own Chinese and Mongolian heritage while also navigating the meaning of home and belonging away from these lands. These explorations are a part of an ongoing project that investigates the role of ancestral mythology and histories of land-based practices that inform contemporary narratives—particularly through focusing on monstrosity, queerness, gender, omen, and cosmology.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
A habitual researcher and avid seeker of stories, Jean Ni (they/she) engages with the world through open-ended interdisciplinary inquiry. Jean is an artist, independent scholar, educator, and licensed landscape architect who advocates for spatial and social justice through care-based relational practices. Jean is interested in the rich world-building practices of collaborative community visioning, feminist science fiction, and ancestral mythology. Engaging land and bodies as storytelling apparatuses, they seek to foster curiosity through deep exploration of entangled feminist concepts, under-acknowledged historical narratives, and uncanny natural phenomena.
Recent work includes the collaborative project Troubling Ecologies, a landscape fiction composed of bio-technological stories that are transmitted from a near-future terrain in the Pacific Garbage Vortex. In the amorphous islands of the P.G.V., clustered cyborg ecologies emerge as bodies digest and re-configure the refuse of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Jean’s professional background consists of urban and rural landscape design, community engagement and planning, land stewardship education through outdoor recreation, and metaphysical healing through wilderness therapy.
They have most recently served as a lecturer at the University of Washington in Seattle, where they received a Master’s in Landscape Architecture in 2018. They also hold a BA in International Studies/Sociology from the University of California at San Diego. While currently based in Seattle, Jean eagerly anticipates relocating to Oakland, California in mid-2022.
© Jean Ni