Lynn Xu: And Those Ashen Heaps
That Cantilevered Vase of Moonlight
November 4, 2022 – January 8, 2023
MOCA presents poet Lynn Xu’s debut exhibition, And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase of Moonlight. Based on her book of the same title, this monumental new commission features large-scale banners, video, audio, and site-specific interventions giving Xu’s text three dimensional space.
MOCA’s Great Hall will be transformed into an expanded field for Xu’s long poem, which includes translations in Chinese, Spanish, and French. The museum’s walls, floors, and windows display text at many scales, and banners that reproduce whole pages hang from the ceiling to encourage a physical experience of reading. A close-up video projection of a mouth speaking approaches abstraction and extends language beyond the written. Recordings of Xu reading a section of the book in Mandarin creates the overarching voice of the exhibition while passages read in English play on focused speakers, inviting intimate sonic encounters.
Situated within a darkened environment, the installation evokes Xu’s preoccupations with theater, the nocturnal, the figure of the sunflower, and the womb. In And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase of Moonlight, Xu builds a world where time is multidirectional—it dilates and contracts as she considers the immediacy of life and death, and vividly moves from the body’s interiors to its exterior, expanding from birth, to excretion, to exclamation.
Xu’s dynamic use of rhythm and scale on the page is transformed into an environment that engulfs the viewer within the text. An ambitious experiment in installation, translation, and format, And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase of Moonlight conceives of the museum as a book, and underscores the act of reading as an intimate, time-based, and embodied experience.
Xu will stage a performance that transforms from a poetry reading into a dance party and back again, at the opening reception, November 4th at 7pm. This activation inaugurates the show with the poet’s voice and a collective experience of movement. **The scheduled performance has been cancelled.
Lynn Xu: And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase of Moonlight is organized by Laura Copelin, Curator-at-Large with Alexis Wilkinson, Assistant Curator. Exhibition design by Dominic Valencia, Exhibition Manager & Registrar.
Major support is provided by VIA Art Fund and Wagner Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Barrio Brewing Foundation Fund; and MOCA Tucson’s Board of Trustees, Ambassador Council, and Members.
The exhibition is generously sponsored by the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Special thanks to programmatic collaborators The American Literary Translators Association and University of Arizona’s Department of Public & Applied Humanities, and to the exhibition’s source text publisher Wave Books and graphic designer Crisis.
About the artist:
Born in Shanghai, China, Lynn Xu is the author of Debts & Lessons (Omnidawn) and And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase of Moonlight (Wave Books), and the co-translator of Pee Poems by Lao Yang (Circumference Books). She has performed multidisciplinary works at 300 South Kelly Street, the Guggenheim Museum, the Renaissance Society, and Rising Tide Projects. She teaches at Columbia University and coedits Canarium Books.
Image Credits: Lynn Xu, Mouth Piece (video still), 2022; Graphics from And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase of Moonlight, copyright 2022 by Lynn Xu, designed by Crisis, published by Wave Books. Used with permission.