In my project Island 2012, I question the perception of emptiness versus empathic objective identification, asking the viewers to question if the subjectivity of a dispute challenges the perception of conflict when viewed from an eastern or western cultural perspective. The territorial dispute of Diaoya/Senkaku Island has been a longstanding subject of debate between Japan and China. From 2012, the conflict over ownership of the territorial border between these islands has become extremely intense and is continually discussed around the world. Unfortunately, the dispute seems irreconcilable as Japan and China each have unchanging views of ownership, which fundamentally conflict at the base of their opinion of one another. The conflict between these two countries forms from a philosophical difference these two societies have in part due to the subjective idealism of ownership. Each side views the island through their own possessive perspective and readies their approach in defense of this perception. The relationship between the island and people who use its resources are objective, yet people are free to interpret the relationship with the island as a product, based on the subjective history and memory. The philosophical border between China and Japan wraps itself in the emptiness between these islands, yet the objects of their desire creates no value from either truths or lies, only opinions.
In the relationship between the emptiness and the objects out of focus I create a balance of importance by their different locations that is defined by the obstruction of the viewing plane. The clearest example I can provide is in traditional Chinese painting, where the emptiness can be the sky, floating clouds, running water, fog, or dust encounters an intended object of focus, and the two produce different levels of balance to convey or mask the poetic expression. For example, the beauty of the emptiness, which has been recognized in paintings, poems, and movies, is often near the top of a mountain or emptiness near a snow-capped river, defines a place tension based on the physical presence the viewer might encounter if they were actually at that location, and for imaginative wonder the subtlety of the entire piece balances the emotional detail of the object of interest giving purpose to the volume of emptiness. As Wang Fangyu states, “the imaginative use of space, which embodies the suggestive quality of paintings, results in more prominence than the painted images.” 15
The implicit nature of emptiness has always played an important role in Chinese and Japanese cultures. In my installation “Island,” the emptiness of the pedestal implies the beauty of the territory between friendship, fear, and war. It is through the deconstruction of any reference to other landmasses that the island’s closeness is defined, offering a range of possibilities for interpreting the relationship between the islands and how their isolation brings into question ownership and authority. The emptiness of the pedestal is relational to the viewer’s curiosity of what is full versus what is empty and how a full element can be of less interest when it is portrayed against the allure of the actual islands. The pedestal emptiness also opens up limitless interpretations on the value of unseen resources and gathers the observer’s attention to the voids presented in the shape of the islands. The emptiness also increases sensibility in understanding the relationship between viewers while waiting to view the hidden elements and features of the areas with their buried interest.