“Я зашивал разбитое стекло, готовясь к зиме.”
2020 felt like a crazy fever dream. The bushfire, the pandemic, I abandoned my motherland became a US citizen and I lost someone to suicide. Everything happened while I, a spoiled cliche, was trying not to get overwhelmed by the growing-up responsibility.
The distance between the past and tomorrow became hazy and memory was the only way to measure how far is home.
I don’t really like the idea of making everything about me. So I tried to document some of my feelings and thoughts with this thesis project in a more objective way, hoping other people might be able to see parts of themselves in this collection and know that they are not alone
In order to calm my “super fragile” soul, I wanted to make something that would last forever. For the first half of my material samples, I experimented with objects like metal, glass, plaster, and human hair that physically last for a really long time.
And in the second half of my samples, I experimented with objects that spiritually last forever, like film leaders, polaroids, and souvenirs.
Growing up, I have always been a huge movie nerd. The fact that there is a pre-designed ending comforts me.
I remembered even before senior year, I wanted to have some kind of story or character arch in my final collection.
So when the time actually came, my brain, which is the size of a walnut, tried its best and created these four chapters for the collection: Last seen, the images you missed, the year after, and the empty room with a closed door.
They each represent a stage of grief. From shock and anger to searching and yearning to disorganization and despair to maybe recovery at the end. But what happens after that, what happens after everyone is gone, who will cherish our stories then...
In the first chapter: "LAST SEEN" (look NARTHEX, look #902), I mainly focused on patchwork to capture that brokenness and started to introduce some other elements in small details like hair, glass, and film leaders.
In the second chapter: "THE IMAGES YOU MISSED" (look URIM, look THUMMIM), I went crazy with film leaders. The film strips I stitched to the garments are the only physical copy of my film project. I also embroidered some metal pieces on the surface.
I love looking for easter eggs in movies and I wanted to bring that joyful surprise into fashion. For example, the metal pieces on the garment actually represent binary code. The circle is zero and the dot is one. God, I am such a nerd lol.
The third chapter: "THE YEAR AFTER" (look RUNAWAY SHEPHERD, look MY FAVORITE SHEEP) is about finding peace and recovery.
The crystal and hair are a physical representation of time passing. And the chainmail vest that I made piece by piece is a literal armor that slowly formed to guard the mind and the flesh.
In the last chapter: "EMPTY ROOM WITH A CLOSED DOOR" (look APSE). I worked with knitting and more crystal embroideries. The mask is made with plaster, glass, two coins, and hair.
Why so scary you may ask, well. There was a painting in my great-grandma’s house that used to give me nightmares when I was a kid. The painting was near the stairs, every night before I went to my bedroom I had to face it, and for some reason, I didn’t tell anyone. At that time, in order to get over the fear, I tried to befriend that scary painting. I gave it a name because I thought if I was being nice to it, it would never harm me.
That strategy clearly didn’t work. But as time passed by, I started to forget about the painting. Maybe because I stopped visiting my great-grandma as often as I used to when I was little. Now, almost twenty years later, my great-grandma is no longer with us. Somehow the painting that used to scare the shit out of me is now one of the things I miss the most.
Kant said that we entered the world with nothing except the concepts of space, time, and logic. Everything about ourselves is formed by the “boring” everyday life.
About that big question, the truth, about what happens after the end. I think from Plato’s “ Allegory of the cave” to that simple rose petal your friend gave you, maybe sometimes the truth no longer matters. We cherish rare moments like meteor showers and auroras because they last so short, but we also cherish beautiful sunrises and sunsets that happen every day, maybe it is because we last so short on earth.
I started this collection at a really dark place in life, but a year later, 10 pounds added to my weight later, I feel ok, I am happier. I think this thesis project actually helped me a lot along the way. And I really hope other people who experienced similar trauma may find a little comfort in this collection. knowing that “it” will get better.
Thank you for reading this. Good morning, and in case I don't see you: Good afternoon, good evening, and good night. Take care.
"IN THE AIR, BY THE SEA" is an ongoing research project Longcheng Brian Shen created during the 2020 covid pandemic.
The main academic topic proposed in this project is a study of how to measure Psychological distance.
Brian has always believed in the warmth and tenderness of empathy that Art/Fashion can provide. "IN THE AIR, BY THE SEA" is his way of cherishing that.