Demystify the Romance trope
by Peiyue Wu
“Art should stay as a space for solitude and reflection rather than romantic comfort.”
The romantic anecdotes of a collaborative couple are often more evocative than general stories about an artist’s inner growth. They can act as mental opium to feed the nerves of those who feel abandoned to their lusterless fate. Just as people of the past used to seek therapeutic power through religion, today’s art practitioners and art lovers tend to consider art as a panacea helping them push through spiritual desolation. It has the potential to connect them to like-minded souls, most ideally, to someone who can provide romantic comfort. Understanding this, it is not surprising that a recent exhibition featuring visual presentation by a collaborative couple at Inna Art Space, titled Sun Yunfan & Dave Liang: Flashbacks in a Crystal Ball, could easily make a scene among the Chinese community in New York City. This is in addition to the fact that the two artists also perform as an electronic music duo, Shanghai Restoration Project, popularized both in China and the United States due to skillful integration of romanticism and nostalgia into their music.
Shanghai Restoration Project was initially founded in 2006 by Dave Liang, a Chinese American who grew up in Upstate New York and aspired to create music synthesizing Western-leaning beat music with 1930’s Shanghai jazz. Compared to Liang, Yunfan Sun’s navigation toward music was much more circuitous. Born and raised in China, Sun relocated to the United States to pursue a master's degree in accounting, though she eventually redirected her career to art. After earning a BFA from the School of Visual Art and an MFA from the Pratt Institute, Sun worked as a cultural journalist before joining Shanghai Restoration Project as a music producer and visual director at a relatively late stage. Although Liang had been collaborating with different musicians and animators, it was not until he paired up with Sun that the band developed a much stronger chemistry between music and visual presentation, therefore expanding its influence to a larger circle of art lovers.more