Studio art professor inspires set design of international dance performance

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The hundreds of scissors featured in studio art professor Beili Liu’s art installation, “Mending Project,” inspired the set design for an ongoing worldwide dance performance.

The concept of Liu’s piece, made to represent life’s many potential dangers, was used in famous Chinese choreographer Yang Liping’s contemporary dance performance “Under Siege,” which started touring in China in 2016. Dancers performed under suspended scissors to convey the violence of the battle of Gaixia, a pivotal battle in Chinese history, in 202 B.C. 

Liping reached out to Liu in 2015 to become the installation artist after seeing pictures of her piece, which Liu started in 2011 and features scissors suspended over a woman sewing. The “Under Siege” performance toured in China and Europe and is now performing in Australia. 

“Miss Yang Liping had this vision and was really touched and transformed by this image (of my project),” Liu said. “She came to me already having this strong preference and confidence as to what (the set) could be.”

In the battle of Gaixia, King Liu Bang of Han defeated King Xiang-Yu of Chu and declared himself China’s emperor, later founding the Han Dynasty.

“The story they’re talking about is very dramatic and has military action involved, but there is also a lot of interpersonal connection that is very profound,” Liu said. “So, you have this domestic object that is not so threatening, not so harsh, not so powerful, but the collective of these objects presents the most stunning effect.”

Studio art sophomore Melissa Garcia said professors continuing to work on personal pieces inspires students to develop their own skills.

“They can see us and our creative process and apply it to themselves and what they’re working on,” Garcia said. “They can help us work through things and see what concepts we should keep going with or what we shouldn’t.”

This collaboration was Liu’s first experience working with the theater world. Studio art senior Manola Ramirez said different disciplines help to improve an artist’s work. 

“Working with other groups not only makes the work more accessible to other people, but also helps you further your own work’s progress,” Ramirez said.

Liu said she was honored to work with Liping and have her art shared so widely, while still holding onto its original meaning.

“It’s about sharing and making the most out of all our creativity,” Liu said. “This collaboration enabled the project to become a global influence, especially in the dance and theater world.”