When Coronavirus began raging, I found that more and more labels appeared in supermarkets, convenience stores, banks, restaurants, and schools—all displayed signs prominently, requiring people to wear masks, keep distance, wash hands, and so on. Each sign was a reminder to abide by the rules. However, these labels had a tone that was, for the most part, cold, almost indifferent. I asked myself, can I convert or translate these pronouncements to communicate something more hopeful, even warm, to bridge the gap of isolation and fear? I wanted to shift the language of command to that of invitation and to situate them along regular paths of circulation within the studio building: next to my doorway, in the Fletcher Building corridor, and at the elevator.
While I used to hide my longing for my hometown in my heart, these signs became an opportunity to bring words of encouragement and motivation to my life and hopefully to others. I chose to offer these unfinished feelings to my audience.
I walked out of the studio and looked at the doorway, corridor, and the label beside the elevator. What if I could change the place closest to me first? Considering many slogans, I chose three of them that I felt were most suitable. And according to their size, color and design, I implemented a subtle transformation by reprinting them and pasting them on my studio door.
In The Labels of Distance, For the first label, the Fire Alarm, and in turn changed my label to Homesick Alarm. When placing these labels on the studio walls and floors, I felt that these slogans became words of motivation for me. The function of language is not only to convey information but also to relay feelings between people. Perhaps I can empower others through these experimental texts, invoking surprise or unexpected encounters with something familiar.
The second label, I calculate the flight time from China to the United States, crossing half the world, which was 14 hours. The distance from Providence to Wuhan is approximately 12,000 kilometers. There is a 12-hour time zone difference between the two cities. When it is daytime in Providence, my hometown of Wuhan is under darkness. I mimic the ‘keep-away’ signs posted on the ground to show the distance between me and my hometown. The footprints pattern capture a satellite map of Wuhan. When I stand in front of the icon, I am facing the nearest direction of my hometown. As the first city to discover the virus, my hometown Wuhan makes this work more meaningful within this global pandemic context.
I made the third label because of the festive holidays of 2020 —Christmas and Chinese New Year —many people chose to spend these celebrations alone instead of reuniting with their parents because of the pandemic. I changed the sentence to the caution sign: Do Not Fog Student maximum occupancy one in front of the studio to : Do Not Worry You are not the only one who is far away from home. My label offers encouragement for others like me who cannot return home, letting them know that you are not alone.