Wang Shu came to visit RISD during the Fall of 2011 and made a speech about his practice in China. At the time I knew very little about Mr Shu but developed an interest in his approach to architecture. His lecture in the Fall consisted for the most part of the way traditional Chinese paintings inspired his work. This made me think about my interest for the “naive paintings” in Haiti as I approached my thesis back in the Summer of 2011. In the progression of my thesis, I decided to work on the Manoir Alexandra, and also focused on designing spaces of exhibition for the classical painting “Oath of the Ancestors”. The traditional Haitian art (mostly renown through Haitian painter Ismael Saincilus) took the back-burner. Upon critiquing my work, a teacher who had spent a year at the China Academy of Art praised Wang Shu’s campus for the many performance spaces it allowed. She encouraged me to go back to the Haitian “Naïve” paintings, two-dimensional pieces of work that reveal layers of depth. She also encouraged me to watch the movie Piña for inspiration because in designing the dance spaces of the Manoir, I always dealt with dance and movement through space.
Below are some pictures of the China Academy of Art selected via a google search. Most recently Wang Shu has been written about in this NYTimes article: An Architect’s Vision: Bare Elegance in China
A syncretetic and changing system of beliefs and rituals produced out of the experience of the sugar plantation system in the New World, Vodou, or “the serving of the Gods,” though bricolaged in the forced contact of African vodun and Catholicism, may be understood as a historical response to the very experience of the ritual brutality of slavery. the serving of the Gods, or lwas, worked to transform torture, terror, and servitude itself. In her recent reconsideration of Haitian history, Haiti, History, and the Gods, Joan Dayan recounts her lesson from the Manbo Priestess La Merci Benjamin about what it means to submit to being ridden by the spirits. Benjamin explains that through the intense thought work of incarnating one of the Vodou deities, “instead of being turned into a thing, you become a god.” And, thus, Dayan theorizes, “to Be ridden by the mèt tèt, to be seized by the god, is thus to destroy the cunning imperial dichotomy of master and slave, or colonizer and colonized.” In eighteenth-century Saint-Domingue nighttime assemblies for the collective practice of Vodou ritual and dancing were more than just transgressions of colonial legal authority. Possession by the gods also conjured a spirit-infused landscape of sacred trees and herbal offerings that menaced colonial authority through a reversal of colonial authority’s basis in its materially staked claims to possession, the notion of “property rights,” of self-possession and control of land.
Sowing Empire- Landscape and Colonization | Jil Casid
Inspiration to design dance spaces in the gardens of Le Manoir Alexandra