The Red Bean Grows In The South is an inaugural exhibition that debuted in Faurschou Foundation New York. I was intrigued and not surprised by its location, Greenpoint, which has slowly transformed into one of the creative hotspots in New York. As expected, the enormous venue was a former warehouse. Everyone who has been to New York would acknowledge that there is no such thing as a 12,000-square-foot venue unless it was a former warehouse. The foundation was established by the art dealer Jens Faurschhou to aggrandize cross-cultural communication between the East and the West. As a young designer who identifies himself as the East and the West's coalescence, I was immediately captivated by this. Besides, I ashamedly growled with stupefaction when I learned why the exhibit was named after the red bean that defined my snacking habits as a young adult.
The title was inspired by a Chinese poem written by Wang Wei during the Tang Dynasty era, telling a story about yearning. At first glance, I understood that red beans have symbolized love and fidelity in Chinese culture, compared to blood and tears shed for a loved one, as the poet wished his friend to collect red beans since they would have reminded the love they shared. However, the exhibit carefully explained how this exploration of love and longing has acquired new meanings within the currently vacillant political context and has become the symbol of breaking free from repression. The introductory graphics boldly stated: "The poetics of exile, of being physically and emotionally displaced, is inherent in the symbol of the red bean and consistently present throughout the exhibition, creating a landscape of individual, as well as collective memory and longing." Discovering more about the philosophy of the red bean was genuinely spectacular, and I promptly fell in love with all the artwork I have not seen yet.
The feeling of a political exile felt personally haunting at some points throughout the show. The Last God by Christian Lemmerz was breathtaking, which depicted a ghost-like figure covered in drapery. The act of outlining yet hiding was an extraordinary method of exploring the opposition between divinity and mortality. Subjectively, the sculpture reminded me of "A Ghost Story," the supernatural drama film directed by David Lowery, in which the idea of an ultimately poignant love and longing has been explored thoroughly through a ghost merely existing in space, trying to make sense of his exile. Similarly, Omer Fast's Continuity was a point of reflection for me within the exhibition. The movie examined a scenario about a young German soldier's return home and his quick realization that nothing stayed the same back home. The movie reminded me of David Lynch's work as I tried to decipher what was real and what was not, which ended on a sad note as I blindly concluded that the main character has not returned home. In fact, the family has been trying to survive after the sudden loss of a child in the war. All these thought-provoking works were curated in such a unique way that as a visitor who has just learned about the red bean's meaning, I wanted to drink deeper.
After I spent around two hours in the gallery, which was an hour more than my ticket allowed, and I was getting ready to leave the exhibition and maybe grab some snacks on the way home, everything aligned in my head. The Faurschou Foundation's core identity revolved around its desire to engage the West with incredible ideas from the East. The works articulated a yearning for new ways to critique the rising totalitarianism today and used the red bean as the focal point that unfolded powerful stories about the sense of political longing. I was in awe. How have I not known that one of the first snacks I have tried in the States had such riveting implications?