New York City-based interdisciplinary artist Qinru Zhang has been exploring identity, femininity, and uncanniness using digital mediums including 3D animation and mixed reality. Through observing society’s sexualization of femininity, Zhang appropriates, détourns, and normalizes feminine stereotypes to challenge existing gender norms. With Zhang’s unique use of eerie aesthetics in her feminine narrations, she advocates for freedom of choice in identity representations and calls for female empowerment.
Thank you for joining us, Qinru. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Qinru Zhang and I am an artist based in New York City. I mostly work with digital mediums including 3D modeling, animations, and digital experiences. Recently, I have expanded my field of explorations and have started using physical materials to build interactive installations. My work is about identity, femininity, and control. I see gender as an uncanny concept strangely existing in this world. I want to understand how gender has shaped individuals, and how individuals can influence gender stereotypes.
What brings you to art? Do you have a specific topic or theme that you are currently focusing on?
I am interested in presenting the uncanniness of femininity in my work. Growing up as a female in China, I frequently experienced uncomfortable gazes when I didn’t behave complying with traditional gender rules. I was trapped in gender and I did not know how to get along with my femininity. After equating femininity to shame for many years, I felt unfair and untruthful to myself. I use art as an outlet to deal with my frustrations and emotions about femininity, a concept that is now uncanny to me because of my conflicting rejection and embracement.
How do you shift between media in your practice? Do you have any secrets to keep yourself creative?
My art shifts between digital and physical, through mediums including animations and interactive technologies. The key to my creativity is interaction with the audience. I always want to invite audiences to be in the same space as the characters of my story. I approach mediums based on the human senses. For example, animations engage the viewers’ eyes and ears, and interactive installations extend the engagement with the sense of touches and even smells. Through art, while it is indeed important to express my opinions, I think it is more significant to build a relationship with the audience and have a conversation.
What does “community” mean to you? How do you see yourself in a community?
Within a community, despite everyone having a distinct personality, a shared interest, value, or goal, exists to foster a sense of belonging and collaboration. It is fascinating to think that you belong somewhere while you don’t know every single individual in that community. I see myself as an active observer and recorder of the community. I collect floating pieces of thoughts of the community members and present them in an archived visual form.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on new 3D animations to explore new meanings of femininity and motherhood. I am also experimenting with 3D printing as a method of building, exploring the idea of perfectness, creation, and reproduction.
Do you have any advice that you would offer to others?
I think the most important idea I want to offer is to be truthful to yourself. Finding out the reason behind the urge to create will lead to great outcomes.
text & photo courtesy of Qinru Zhang