Introducing a new series of interviews, OUTCOMING AIR, where we talk to artists who have recently completed their residency programs.
Meet Daniel Shieh! Shieh recently finished residency at Anderson Ranch where he utilized their fabrication resources and gained insight on how to look intently at his individual experiences to inform his practice.
Shieh is an immigrant artist who investigates what is considered foreign to the United States, and how the concept of Otherness plays a role in the formation of national identity. Through audio and visual installations, he examines key themes in American culture such as the frontier, nativism, and space exploration. These immersive installations manipulate perspective, sense of distance, and visibility to alter the power dynamics between its visitors.
Have you been an artist in residency before? If so, where?
Yes, since I finished grad school in 2019 I’ve been applying to a lot of residencies. Some of the coolest ones I’ve been to are I-Park Foundation, Fountainhead, Stove Works, MASS MoCA, Josephine Sculpture Park, Franconia Sculpture Park, Monson Arts.
What drew you to apply to Anderson Ranch?
The facility that Anderson Ranch has is pretty amazing. They have almost everything an art school at a university would have. In a lot of ways being there is like being back in school—you get shared studios with a pretty big cohort—people you talk to and learn from everyday. It’s great to be back in a space where everyone is excited about what they’re working on. It’s a very motivating environment.
Sky Chamber, 2021. Images courtesy of artist.
What were some of the expectations coming into the program? Did you have an idea of the work you would be making?
I wanted to use Anderson Ranch’s specialized fabrication equipment—CNC, 3d printers, sandblasters—to create some functioning prototypes. A lot of my work plays with architectural space and manipulates light and reflections, so I need to test these ideas out on a small scale in order to develop them, before building them in their intended final size. Since a lot of them require precise angles, the digital fabrication equipment and the incredible studio technicians there helped me create prototypes that function better than anything I could’ve made at home.
How has being at Anderson Ranch affected your practice? Were there people you could collaborate with /receive criticism from?
One of the biggest things that I benefited from was the opportunity to talk to visiting artists who are far ahead in their careers. I learned the reality of the art world, how museums plan exhibitions, how galleries work, and I’m now able to better plan my career and what to put my energy into. Many of us asked the visiting artists for studio visits and received incredible feedback, which helped me work past certain obstacles and see my practice through new ideas. For example, I have been struggling to incorporate my own identity into my work which explores otherness and the visiting artist Carlos Rolón suggested I look at the work of Danh Võ, who incorporates his history into sculptures that explore American Identity. I have known about Danh Võ’s work but never made the connection between his experience and mine. Carlos also suggested a couple of us to look at Laurie Anderson, who describes herself as a storyteller rather than a multimedia artist. Somehow her description felt very liberating and encouraging for us to try new materials and processes to tell our stories.
Mothers Anthem, 2021. Video courtesy of artist.
Can you talk about some of the work you produced in residency?
My main goal at this residency was to create a functioning prototype for Passage to TOI-700d, a large outdoor installation that will be shown at Socrates Sculpture Park in September 2022. This sculpture takes the form of a tunnel that ascends upward into the sky, at the end of the tunnel is an artificial sunset that makes it feel as though you’re walking into another world. The theme of the exhibition at Socrates is Climate Futures and this project explores the ways in which space exploration is similar to how the American West was occupied, and how this idea of a frontier awaiting exploration is an integral part of American identity. The trickiest part was creating the contraption at the end of the tunnel that mimics a setting sun and through a lot of googling and trial and error at Anderson Ranch I was able to create a resin-based light filter that does that. Another challenge was to design the contraption so that it fits in a very compressed space. Since the light filter makes a lightbulb look like the sun in an infinite blue space, I wanted the contraption itself to be very compact to make the illusion look more impossible. With the powerful 3d printers at Anderson Ranch I was able to test out a couple of different designs in just one week.