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.