Utopia

I recently came across an art installation online by Yang Liu, a Chinese-born artist who lives in Germany. Her series of visual designs contrast the cultural norms and values of China and Germany, and their broader respective civilizations. Being a product of the West and East myself, I was constantly nodding at her images, as they captured much of the cultural differences between my adopted and birth country, a topic on which I have previously written. As I continued scrolling, I found myself “choosing” between which side I preferred best, depending on the topic. These choices, in the form of picking the blue (Germany) or red (China) tile and trivial though they are, in fact summarize one of my life’s larger struggles; the straddling of two different and often incongruous ways of being, and the striving to define an identity that is at once consistent with and is a synthesis of both.

Having made my choices, I thought it fitting to generate a montage–a visual representation of my utopia–composed entirely out of Yang Liu‘s work. By hovering over any of the tiles below, the alternative scenario is revealed (hovering a little longer still shows a tooltip with a text description), although I would not go so far as to call it dystopian. In fact, while Yang’s visualizations represent in some sense the stereotypical extreme of each culture, more often than not I find myself preferring the middle ground between the two. Nonetheless, genuine differences exist, and the pictures below represent my vision of what an ideal culture would be. It is almost entirely coincidental that I picked the same number of red and blue tiles; in actuality, working with all of Yang’s tiles, I would have had a few more blue than red ones. But the near symmetry suggests that my synthesis project may have been proceeding better than I expected.


6 comments

  1. Thanks, Mohammed. Very interesting. Since you have been affected by two very disparate cultures, your preferences on the chart can easily be interpreted as reflecting your Western professional training and practice, mixed with the cultural package passed down by your family. To a some extent, one’s personality is shaped by what one does for a living.

    Bear in mind that most thinking individuals making their selections, at least in the West, will not produce anything close to a 100% red or blue chart. In my case, primarily American culture, up to 8 of the categories leaned red. – CW

    • Yes you are probably right, although I think my preferences are also in part a product of conscious decision-making. It does, to some extent, come down to preferring western professional conduct and eastern communal values, although my preferences are not without qualification. For example, while I do like the strong community and family ties that eastern cultures tend to produce, I also like the ability to do freely what I want without regular interference from an extended family network, a characteristic more easily found in western cultures. I am not sure that these two desires are actually reconcilable–it may be only possible to get one but not the other. Incidentally, these two competing values are captured by the bottom-left and bottom-right tiles.

  2. Pingback: Eastern vs. Western Societies | Anthem Culture - Media Lifestyle Brand

  3. These are just racial stereotypes. I for one am not impressed. In fact, I don’t even feel some of her illustrations of chinese are accurate.


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