Wayne State University

Light as a Feather

The James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History, Wayne State University (WSU), Detroit, is pleased to present Light as a Feather, an installation by Beili Liu at the McGregor Memorial Conference Center, WSU, November 8 through December 16, 2016. 

Light as a Feather

Thousands of plain, white feathers approximately 4” to 6” long, each dipped in pine tar and wiped dry, are suspended in the open light filled space at the McGregor Memorial Conference Center. The tarred feathers cascade downward to different levels, capturing the natural light from the surrounding windows. The meandering flow of feathers forms hills and valleys, bends and clusters, occupying the majority of the space above. The stark black and white composition has an uneasy lightness. The installation and performance project Light as a Feather sets its gaze on the traumatic experiences of the massive, growing numbers of displaced populations; their losses and sufferings.

The ephemeral quality of tar and feathers connote impermanence, an underlying truth in all things in life. The materials refer directly to the practice of "tarring and feathering", a barbaric and cruel act seen both in Europe during the early modern period as well as the American frontier. The act intends to publicly punish and humiliate. The material conglomeration of the installation speaks to the unfathomable numbers of lives lost, the magnitude of humiliation and pain endured in exile, and our silence, numbness, and inaction to counter the tides of loss and sorrow.

Beili Liu

Beili Liu is a visual artist who creates material-­‐and-­‐process-­‐driven, site-­‐responsive installations. Through her exploratory methods of making, Liu navigates the territory in between culturally specific narratives and universal human desires. Oftentimes embodying transience, fragility, and the passage of time, Liu’s immersive installations are engaged with multifaceted dichotomies: lightness contrasted with heft; fierceness countered by resilience; and chaos balanced by quiet order. Working with commonplace materials and elements such as thread, scissors, paper, stone, fire, and water, Liu manipulates their intrinsic qualities to extrapolate complex cultural narratives.

McGregor Memorial Conference Center

Completed in 1958, the McGregor Memorial Conference Center was the masterpiece of world-­‐renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki.  The two-­‐story center is a highly sculptured building with meeting rooms and reception space that overlook a lobby accented by free-­‐standing columns and partitions highlighted with teakwood.  The atrium design provides abundant natural light.  The conference center also overlooks a refurbished reflecting pond and sculpture garden, and has recently been designated as a national historic landmark.

Beili Liu will be the second installation artist to utilize the conference center, working aesthetically to create a site-­‐specific installation concurrent with Minoru Yamasaki’s vision and architectural design initiative.  

The James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History is a division of Wayne State’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, educating the next generation of visual artists, designers and art historians. Wayne State University, located in the heart of Detroit’s midtown cultural center, is a premier urban research university offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 28,000 students.

Images Courtesy Beili Liu