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Dialogue | Ye He

Aug 21, 2022

Dialogue / Xiaoying Yang

Editor / Xiaoying

Editor / Peirou


何烨Ye He

b. 1998

Ye He (b. 1998), born in Hefei, China. She is currently living and working in London. She graduated from Fine art & History of art in Goldsmiths University of London. She has studied Western Esotericism at the History of Hermetic Philosophy and related currents in University of Amsterdam. Ye works with several media, including video, games, photography, drawing, installation and writing. Her works usually fly between psychoanalysis and the occult, exploring the margins and extreme forms in the spiritual world.

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Q: The themes of your works revolve around occultism. When did your interest in tarot, divination and other occultism begin? Can you share your personal stories and experiences in more detail?

A: During my sophomore year, I was very interested in phenomenology, with a special focus on the relationship between time and space. For me, the perception of time and space is entirely dependent on the subjective feelings of human beings themselves. In my guesses about the state of space-time, I assumed time and space as a kind of independent, non-interfering bubbles. This spatiotemporal state is centered on the perception of "I". The space, time, and present state that I perceive, and the matter that I come into contact with, make up the entire bubble. Sometimes our perception is limited by bodily functions, and when a person experiences something outside of bodily functions, it is possible to fly into another world. I don't want to simply call it hallucination or imagination, I think the experience can also be called a switch from one bubble to another. Magic, or the paranormal, may be the switch that constitutes the passage of time and space bubbles.

At the same time, I have always been curious about magic and phenomena beyond normal physical perception, such as near-death experiences, and the audiovisual hallucinations of eating hallucinogenic mushrooms. So when I was developing my own creations at that time, I chose to use mysticism as a fulcrum to study this kind of imagination about the state of time and space in depth. During the course selection, there happened to be a course combining occultism and psychology, so I gradually began to study occultism. Earlier this year, I also took a two-week occult course at the University of Amsterdam.

Witch Circle, Digital Drawing, 2022

Q: In real life, have you ever had an experience that goes beyond normal physical perception?

A: No, I do this by watching movies or dreaming.

Q: Can you talk about your process of studying occultism at the University of Amsterdam? How did all this happen?

A: The whole course is very compact. It teaches Western occult research, including the initial imagination of magic, medieval astrology, symbolic interpretation of alchemy, and the history of making herbal hallucinogens. Since the nineteenth century, with the basic perfection of scientific theories, mysticism has gradually been marginalized, and many religions and black magic have become taboo topics in society. Today, when the atmosphere of scientism occupies the right of absolute truth, witchcraft in the traditional sense is rarely mentioned, and this course mainly discusses these cultures that have been rejected and forgotten by the mainstream.

Cave, 2021

Q: Many of your works contain elements of dreams. Are the narratives and images quoted in your works based on your own dreams? Was the entire space of Cave based on your actual dreams?

A: Not exactly. I will have a dream diary that I have kept for two or three years, and I have not yet figured out how to use it. But the state and concept of dreams is something I have been researching, and I also like to study some psychoanalytic content through dreams. The narrative and imagery in my work do not have a complete source system, but rather a relaxed and random creative process.

"Cave" is a course assignment of mine that requires creative writing that combines art history and personal creation. In this project, I intend to create a volcanic cave that was excavated by archaeology hundreds of years after the eruption, where archives and relics from centuries ago are still left. The entire work space looks like a volcanic cave, but in my opinion it is a spiritual space that carries desires and illusions.

Q: You majored in fine arts and art history in college. Has the critical thinking of art history influenced your artistic creation?

A: Not only the subject of art history, but the entire English academic writing system is based on a rigorous logical thinking. For me, critical thinking means having independent and subjective thinking and being able to fully narrate or debate an event. The work "Cave" actually implies a resistance to the logic of academic papers, and I hope to show the possibility of another narrative paper by writing and intuitively presenting academic theories.

Cave, 2021

Q: How do you see the opposition between the objectivity that academics admire and the subjectivity that artistic expression values?

A: There is no strong sense of the opposition between the two. It may be because the teaching style of our art history major is not like the subject training in traditional colleges, so we do not feel the objectivity of many academic praises. I think the training in our school is more like the expansion and divergence of thinking. For example, we will have different themes each week, such as one week dedicated to thinking about dreams, including different expressions of dreams, how artists classify and re-narrate their dreams, and related theories of psychoanalysis, etc.

There were references at the time, such as the cutting theory proposed by novelist William Burroughs, which is a serendipitous literary technique in which tapes are cut and randomly joined together to form new narratives. This narrative can actually establish a connection with the logical way of thinking in dreams. And the schizophrenic analysis theory proposed by Deleuze and Guattari is similar to the thinking function of dreams in the human brain. Deleuze and Guattari believe that schizophrenia is a nomadic, emancipatory state of mind that can resist the control of modern information, while the dream state is equivalent to the body's semi-automatic reaction resistance to external systematic discipline.

Spinning Cards, 2022


Perception and Artistic Expression

Q: The works "Mysterious Cabinet" and "Say a spell, the World will spin" are both exhibited in the form of immersive interactive installations. Combined with your recent research on space-time states and human time perception, do you intend to create a Let the audience perceive the space of different time states?

A: The subjective experience of the audience is an important part of all my works. Concepts such as different spatial states and perceptions are difficult to comprehend by one’s imagination alone. They can only be recognized through feelings and experiences in the present moment. In the spaces I create, the divergent perception that the audience creates while sitting on site is the main way to receive the intent of my work.

Q: In your works, space-time states, dreams, memory and occultism are all closely related. Can you elaborate on the connection between occultism and them? How do you present these connections in your work?

A: I am committed to conveying thoughts on memory flow and complementation. I tend to think of memory as a whole in the human brain in which all conscious and non-conscious memories are stored. What a person experiences at the moment—that is, perception—can supplement this memory, and the memory as a whole also participates in the generation of the present moment.

At the same time, because of the fluidity and bidirectionality of memory movement, the integrity of memory expressed in each of my works is not only composed of the artist's own memory, but requires the flow and interaction of each viewer's memory to achieve. As an artist, my intention is to create an environment that stimulates the unconscious memory deep in the viewer's mind. I hope that the artist's position in this scene is distant and conspicuous, as if holding a scepter, directing the audience to make movements together.

Mystery Cabinet, Interactive Installation, 2022, Collaborate with Xinyi Fan

Q: There seems to be a kind of randomness implicit in your work.

A: The randomness implied in the work may be because the artist's subjectivity is hidden behind the work. When my friends commented on my works before, they thought that I deliberately concealed a lot of guidance and imagery, which made it difficult for the audience to truly enter the context of the creation of the work. I think most artists express their views in their works, and audiences are generally accustomed to feeling these views and thoughts from their works of art.

I didn't put the intention and point of view explicitly in the work, but just presented a resultant work there, and the scene lacked the intermediary to interpret the result for the audience. So the whole thought process may need to be done by the audience themselves. For example, in tarot divination, the card drawer relies on the answers given by the tarot master. But when you complete the card drawing interpretation process by yourself, all interpretations come from the connection between your consciousness and the content of the card. No one can tell the answer, only your own imagination can complete this connection.

Say a spell,the world will spin, Installation,2022

Q: In the crossover talk, you talked about using tarot cards to do calculations by yourself when you have no clue when you are creating. What does tarot reading mean to you? Is it a tool for clarifying thoughts in artistic creation? Or a source of inspiration?

A: There are many different ways to draw tarot cards, and drawing cards is like the process of receiving specific advice. I have a deck of cards dedicated to counting works and theses. The booklet that accompanies the Tarot is a broken-chain novel that is difficult to read, and the pictures on the cards are abstract. Whenever I'm out of inspiration, such as when I don't know what to write in the next paragraph of a dissertation, deciphering the drawings and text on the drawn cards helps me generate associations and some fluid thoughts, rather than stagnation.

Q: Do you unconditionally believe the guidance given to you by the card board or just use it as a reference?

A: Card drawing and interpretation are two different things. I tend to believe that the card I draw can help me, but I am skeptical of different people's interpretations of this card, because the interpretation of the same card will vary depending on the situation at different times. Tarot has been rarely counted since last month. I don't know when to start I no longer need to use props to answer. I already have the answer in my heart for the result I want to know or the progress of something. It may be that after using Tarot for a while, the ability to predict has become stronger.

Q: Maybe the answer has always existed in your subconscious, and the tarot is just a tool for you to reconfirm.

A: It is possible. When I really want to confirm whether an answer is correct, I will unconsciously approach this answer in the process of interpreting the Tarot.

Say a spell, the world will spin, 2022

Q: For some staunch materialists, they believe that things are man-made and that fate cannot be defined by means such as metaphysics and divination. In other words, materialism firmly believes that the world is knowable, the origin of the world is matter, and it exists objectively independent of human consciousness. How do you feel about materialism?

A: The starting point of all thinking is based on the actual emotional experience caused by subjective perception, through the subjective perception of the world to diverge the imagination of different spatial states. Perception is a difficult but fundamental existence. So based on my perception of the current world, I believe that there is a world beyond the boundaries of modern science.

I think some people who believe in modern science, they are thinking more about the real world with rational logic. For example, it is like the Te function in the Jungian eight-dimensional function in the MBTI personality test. People with high Te function are good at getting used to the rational and objective world, and when they make judgments, they don't need "me" to participate. But I am an infp myself, and my Te function is the lowest in eight dimensions. I myself tend to feel the world by "I". I think a large part of the formation of this kind of logical thinking is innate, and it is related to the character formed by the education and environment since childhood. Although I am not a materialist, I can understand their point of view on a logical level.

Say a spell, the world will spin, 2022


Floating Body

Q: In your artistic practice, you mainly use digital media to create, such as 3D modeling, game production, photography and video. When did you first use digital media? Why did you choose digital media as your primary creative medium?

A: I first studied photography. In recent years, I have been creating in school. I have started to do some animation and modeling related content. I will also try painting in the near future. The choice of digital media may be related to my personality. I have been in touch with computers very early, and have liked to use computers to create some images since elementary school, so I have always had a kind of intimacy with any digital media. I've also tried some handmade creations, but maybe not quite right.

Water in Water, Hand washing on Vintage photo, 2020

Q: When converting digital media into real-world displays, did you encounter difficulties in the presentation process?

A: In the actual production process, the initial plan and final presentation of each work are quite different, and many random choices and changes have been made based on different situations. For example, the work "Mysterious Cabinet" was originally planned to be made into a tarot card, but considering that the tarot card is closer to an object that is carried around in life when it is exhibited, it cannot be combined with the space to bring the audience a sense of experience . So I converted the specific image content on the tarot card into a three-dimensional device, and replaced the concept of drawing cards in the tarot by opening a drawer, in which each cabinet door represents a connection of space-time memory.

Mystery Cabinet, Interactive Installation, 2022

Q: During the process of studying abroad, did you feel the cultural conflict between the East and the West? Does being in the middle state of Eastern and Western cultures have any influence on your creation?

A: Compared with the cultural conflict between the East and the West, I feel more of a floating state, and it is difficult to feel as stable as it was stuck on the ground before. Interpersonal relationships and living conditions have always been in a fluid and unstable state. It seems that everyone is wandering in different geographical locations in the world for different purposes. This general state of life makes me feel like I’m floating over the city. After staying in one city for a long time, I want to live in another city, but when I actually arrive, I want to pursue a more distant place, and I’m always in a constant state of traveling to a distant place. in the process of destination. This is just like the fantasy proposed by Lacan, both fantasy must surpass reality, it is just a sustenance in your heart, when it becomes a concrete thing in reality, it is no longer fantasy itself, in order to continue to exist, the object of desire must never be achieved.

Q: Do you have any future creative plans?

A: I will be a teaching assistant in the school next year. Because I can still use school equipment, I will continue to create and plan to try performance art. The tarot cards in "Spinning Cards" will also continue to improve the design, add some different scene content and guide words, and strive for publication and sale.

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