Meet Qiaochu Guo
“It has been a gradual process until I finally decided to find my own way. I am really happy that the choice found me.”
Qiaochu Guo studied at the Designacademy in Eindhoven and graduated in 2021. Qiaochu lives and works in Eindhoven and is participating in the third edition of Inversie, which started in March and lasts until December 2023.
How would you describe your practice and what theme recurs in your work?
My work is strongly related to the body. How a social structure influences the human body, or even non-human bodies. The body is the starting point of my work that could be all kind of media. Recently I started with performances. There is a strong bodily shape in this; the muscles, the flesh, the movement, all is part of it. From my research I focus on different body practices, abandoned bodies, sick bodies, or otherwise bodies that are in discomfort.
Was there a special moment or person that inspired you to become an artist?
I grew up in a small city in China. Before I was 18, I did not even know what an artist was. Because it is hard for an artist to get support it was more something for rich kids. So, I started with design because it was more realistic that I could support myself. When I went to the Netherlands I learned more about the conceptual approach and social design, and I became more related to the world that I live in. But making things was more of a format to follow. After graduation I became more autonomous in my work; art gave me the space to do that and reshape what I learned from school. I noticed that I became better in expressing myself and also received good feedback from the audience. So, it has been a gradual process until I finally decided to find my own way. I am really happy that the choice found me.
Why is it a good time for you to be part of the Inversie program?
Starting off with other artists – we have all the same questions and are at the same point in our career – that is so beautiful. We have different goals and background, and with Inversie we come together. I feel sometimes lonely, working by myself in my studio. I need some reflection on my work, but also on my life.
My second reason is that I am still new here, I don’t speak the Dutch language, so the program really helps me to learn more about the art scene in the Netherlands and Brabant because that is where I live. My mentor is also my professional guide, so in a way it is about education. The most important thing I learned that is that I should take my time and keep a good pace. I tend to do a lot of things all at the same time, while I really should separate these and give my projects some individual time and space so I can make them better. I must lose the pattern I learned from school because now I am an independent artist that can make its own choice.
What is important in your practice which you do not like to do?
It is hard for me to write text in standard formats like for example exhibition text, flyer text, invitations. I cannot embrace writing like that because it does not match my line of thinking. I am too jumpy for that; I dive into details and connect many lines of thoughts. I must put a lot of effort in it to explain, and it’s not satisfying at all because it does not resemble my practice. Who writes good has more chance of receiving funding, so that could be a problem for me. I see a lot of good artists who make good work, but they cannot describe what they are doing.
And if you could choose and didn’t have to take anything into account, where can we find you then?
I like the idea of traveling in the continents where I haven’t been yet. Not for a purpose like art or money, just for the experience. How my body senses the change of climate and society. There is of course a chance that it will inspire my work and I do a research trip later. And that is the journey I like for my art, to dive into the research process and try out different methods.
Can you tell some more about recent projects besides Inversie, which experience was most memorable?
One of the things that I have done recently that was most memorable is to have worked with a group of performers. They trained me in their methodology which is quite different than my own. I always work from the visuals, they work from the body, the voice, the intuition. It is most powerful. It was amazing do discover such a different way of working.
Another good experience was to participate with Metro54, a platform for young artists, thinkers, writers, for which I made some design things. It is different from my own practice, but good to collaborate because thanks to this platform people of colour find their way in the Dutch art scene.
What are you currently working on that fully demands your attention?
The coming weeks I will continue my research about moxibustion in De Kruisruimte in Eindhoven. My project is inspired by the medical practice around this herb. What I do is to research the history how moxibustion is introduced in Europe, and how this refers to colonialism. My next steps are developing a performance in combination with sculptures I made relating to this research like for example a deformed foot from my earlier work. And I am also preparing for the Dutch Design Week where I will be showing my work on Sectie-C, a place in the east of Eindhoven where art and experiment is to be seen.
What are your plans for the future?
For my career I want to do a research trip to open up my mind. Maybe I go back to my hometown to research my family history that is related to the big migration in the middle of 1990. The hometown of my grandparents was in the middle of the north, it was flooded by water, so everyone had to leave and settle themselves in the middle of the south. I know they came by boat, by car and by foot. Unfortunately, my grandparents passed away, I could not visit them during covid and now it is too late. That is a real pity. I would like to ask them more about our history. Together with the other migrants they travelled to wild land, the whole town is built by the migrants. However, they still had to adapt themselves to the culture of the region, to the language.
For my practise I really want to make this a beautiful work, not only for myself but also for the audience. I should say sincere instead. Sincere because it is related to me and my background, because my own emotion is part of this work. I won’t tell a lie to the audience and hope they feel it as well. At the same time, I want to attract people to walk into my work, that it has influence, and gives something to think about.
Mentor Erik Hagoort about Qiaochu
Qiaochu always enter our conversations unconditionally. Unflinchingly, Qiaochu articulates what is on their minds in their raw installations and powerful performances. Not something for tender souls. Qiaochu: “Let the healing emerge from the dark, from the rottenness of normality and from the darkness of injustice.” We discuss anger, exclusion, illness, deformity, injustice, the compulsion of normality. We reflect on what drives Qiaochu after all: calmness, fun, humour, solidarity, healing. “Let the good be conveyed, but through distopia”, says Qiaochu. And so in several of Qiaochu’s performances, a misshapen foot, made of styrofoam, functions. From the instep of the foot protrudes a smouldering cigar made from mugwort, an herb from the wormwood family. Stinky grey smoke rises and then descends, greasy and heavy. Will the herb’s smoke ever ease the pain of walking?
Text: Esther van Rosmalen
Image: Marcel de Buck