Art, Affects, and A life in Chinatown

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

— Thomas Merton




Not only because it is one of the best ways to understand a culture, but also because art is a medium that functions as a link between me and the artists, making it possible for us to have conversations across time and space. After reading Fuller, Bennett, and Brennan, I would regard the “conversations” as Affects. Affects are different from feelings; the experience and production of Affects do not reflect our own consciousness. Yet when I think of “Affects”, I could not come up with a concrete yet legit definition; but I will try to explain it in the compliance with art. Moreover, I feel media and affects are changing and broadening the definitions of art, and blending and fusing it with our daily lives.


Yet I know most people when they go to a museum they are like:


I was like this when I was first introduced to art world…

Back to the topic… Brennan explains Affect in her article, “Transmission of Affect”, with Aristotle’s Rhetoric, which organized the Affects in terms of “anger and mildness, love and hatred, fear and confidence, shame and esteem, kindness and unkindness, pity and indignation, envy and emulation (4).” Affect is a natural aftermath after our physical responses to things happened in our lives. Yet media has re-mediated the ways we appreciate art and understand our lives from art. For example, a traditional way to enjoy art is to go to a museum and look at different paintings or sculptures, but media has boarded the ways to express art and thoughts: the adding on video, sound, and technology effects on objects transform art from a traditional visual object to an Affect that, according to Brennan, “rises from our bodily response (4).”

If paintings and sculptures are too deep to understand, then how about appreciating our own feelings? 


Last winter there was a temporary art exhibition held in Financial District area. An art project called the “Museum of Feelings” attracted many people to come for the exhibition (I remembered I was waiting in the line for three and half hours). According to their website, it was the first museum that reacted to human emotions and turned them into art. In another word, this museum was built by every single visitor’s. People are seeing the conceptualization of each other’s affects (how wonder it sounds) (and it is!!!).


(gif via Tumblr)

This art project cannot be achieved without modern media. Yet, Kember is able to deepen our understanding of this art project by relating back the essential relationship between people and media, “Human  is seen as having always been technological, or having always been mediated. To pu it differently, technology and media are precisely what makes us human (194).” Media ecology, to my understanding, is the opposite of the natural ecology, which our lives are constructed and understandable only through media.

Another example media and Affects change the way people understand art is Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition “A Dream I Dreamed;” she is the best  representative of the modern pop art and minimalism; Yayoi Kusama turns the space itself to become the art—a space which conceptualized affects into the interrelation between people’s cognitions and arts.


Yet, Deleuze gives a more through understanding of Affects by talking about multiplicity; “an assemblage is precisely this increase in the dimensions of a multiplicity that necessarily changes in nature as it expands its connections (8).”Both the art projects of “the Museum of Feelings “and “Kusma’s A Dream I Dreamed” are formed by small individuals, either by our feelings or by dots.


I really want to continue talking about my passion for art, but… I have to turn my point back to our topic — the two ideas about my media ecology projects (which are inspired by the articles we read and art):


  1. Investigating the Street Vendors in Chinatown;
  2. Investigating the Industry of selling Fakes around the Chinatown area (although this one sounds very dangerous).

When I go to Chinatown, there are always street vendors selling vegetables or fruits, even though fruits and vegetables are already available in big super markets. As Chinese, I understand that street vendor is part of  a  chinese cultural tradition that Chinese brought with then when they immigrated to the States. Yet what does these small street vendors mean to Chinatown and to individual Chinese and what the roles do these street vendors play under the big American cultural environment?



(photo via tumblr)

The second idea of my media ecology project is to investigate the phenomenon of selling fake luxury products in NYC; I observed some hustlers around 34th Street and Time Square, but most of them are very active around the Chinatown area. What steers and maintains this phenomenon in a country in which treats copyright seriously?


–Lillian ZW Liao

Provided Links:

Video about the

The Museum of Feelings.

The African Knock off Hustle – The Industry Of Selling Fake Designer Products In NYC.

~ by Lillian ZW Liao on September 19, 2016.

3 Responses to “Art, Affects, and A life in Chinatown”

  1. Best Style: The way that you structured your blog post was very clear to understand, and the collection of images and gifs you used as aids both helped me understand the topics you discussed and gave me insight into your personality, which made the blog interesting.

    – Theresa S

  2. This post had the best style! Your structure and use of gifs and multimedia is eye-catching and entertaining. I think you did a great job in exploring your passion for art. I wonder if you could explore street art and graffiti in Chinatown and cultural art expression of oppression and gentrification in the area.

  3. Best engagement: I love the way in which you structured your blog and filled it with so many funny gifs. Because of these gifs, the article quickly caught my attention.
    I have to admitted that I am a person who goes to art museum like the birds on the second gif. So I feel really engaged while seeing the gif. And I am attracted by your idea that “media and affects are changing and broadening the definitions of art, and blending and fusing it with our daily lives”. Looking forward to learn more about your idea on art.


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