HE+HU's Kinetic ‘Creatures’ Blend Intimacy, Hunger, And History

The Aerial debuted at Asia Contemporary Art Week 2017.

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He Wei, The Aerial (2017). Courtesy Resonance Vision.

Art openings can be a fraught experience. (If you've never been that person hanging out by the hors d'oeuvres table, you’re probably kidding yourself.) So when the creative collective HE+HU were brought in to deliver a special project for Asia Contemporary Art Week’s VIP Kickoff Party, the duo were bent on eschewing that awkward energy for something fun.

Their resulting project, The Aerial, is an interactive venture that involves food, history, and as much whimsy as the audience will let themselves indulge in. “The project aims to generate a free, frolic experience, and [to] spread curiosity among the crowd as they perform with the work,” He Wei, one-half of the HE+HU collective, told me in a recent interview. 

The art piece makes itself available for both passive and active engagement. Individual black feathers, which the artists dub 'creatures,' stand in the center of a table. Surrounding the centerpiece is the main course of the evening: plates of sushi. Participants are invited to pluck the feathers as utensils and proceed as they wish. These 'creatures,' which simultaneously look like a skewer, a quill pen, and an adult toy, are designed to invite users to be a little more imaginative with how they eat.


He Wei, The Aerial (2017). Courtesy Resonance Vision.

“It really surprised me to see how varied and interesting people’s reactions were to the installation,” He continued. “Some of the audience grappled over the long thin neck of the installation unit as they were eating in an awkward way—raising their arms and tilting their heads, while some were just so mesmerized with its fluffy feathered ‘head.’ Also, I was glad to see that people whip the fork as a prop to ‘flirt’ with each other, actually one of the key purpose the installation was designed for.”

In addition to the creatures’ practical use, the project is also intended to serve as a conceptual touchstone. He told me that the quill aspect of the device is meant to make users think of a calligrapher, and, as they eat, the creature tracks their movements and paints them as the brash strokes of a Chinese calligrapher.

“As guests wield these ‘creatures,’ their heads and necks swing in the air,” He  explained. “The idea of this work originates from the incense burner from Han Dynasty in ancient China, which usually features a paradise where animals of various kinds reside and frolic. The ‘creatures’ in The Aerial, bearing the visual metaphor for the animals on the incense burner, function as the extended parts of the participants’ bodies to share mutual feelings, inclinations, and loves...This transformation resonates with the dialectic relationships between the heavy and the light, the one and the myriad. The feathered props as well as the body movements that come along—dip and whip, indicate the action in Chinese painting and calligraphy.”

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He Wei, The Aerial (2017). Courtesy Resonance Vision.

HE+HU have been working with the intersection of food and art since their founding in 2015. From a series of semi-erotic, tongue-in-cheek GIFs of fried chicken, to a set of kinetic goblets that visualize intimacy, the duo’s work is a playful blurring between the lines of food, sex, and art.

“I enjoy working with the uncertainty brought by food,” Wei reflects.  “As a living, ephemeral medium, food is always surprising and challenging to work with, while it also grants me with a large amount flexibility. In a word, food, similar to art, bears the intention to share love and eliminate prejudice.”

To learn more about He + Hu’s work, check out their website here.


Author: Annie Armstrong

Editor: Rain Embuscado