“Dragon Eye” is an immersive video installation capturing the religious traditions and daily labor of the Miao ethnic group in China, open in SP/N through the end of the month.
This installation was built from the travels and ethnography research of UTD professor Thomas Riccio capturing the traditions and ways of life of the Miao people. The art exhibit is open from Jan. 26 to March 2 at the SP/N Gallery. “Dragon Eye” includes picture slideshows, videos and auditory media that invites the viewer to see the Miao’s everyday lives. The exhibit developed when Riccio was asked by a director of the SP/N if he had anything he wanted to show, and he decided to submit a collection of his videography and ethnographic research. All the different clips in the exhibit are located in separate places and not in chronological order, so the viewer must explore the exhibit in order to get the full story.
The Miao people are one of the 56 recognized ethnic groups in China, living primarily in southern China’s mountains. Many clips show shamans conducting rituals and beautiful mountainous scenery highlighting the Miao’s connection to the earth and their loyalty to tradition in a highly modernized world.
“My intent was basically to show the Miao life and how integrated their ritual and spirituality was with daily life,” Riccio said. “And also [to] show the diversity of daily life, and to show that they’re in transition. A lot of the traditional cultures around the world are evaporating because of globalization, internet, technology, et cetera.”
In conjunction with the video and audio presented at the exhibition, there are also textiles pieces depicting the Chinese Communist Part and ordinary members of the Miao community. Some clips also showed pictures of historical figures of the CCP inside Miao people’s homes.
Riccio’s first experience with the Miao community was in 2001 out of chance when a roommate of his, who was Miao, invited him to travel to China. Ever since, Riccio has returned several times to film content about the Miao. Riccio had extra footage after creating a 20-minute documentary and while piecing clips together for a full-length one, he decided to use some of those clips to show his research in ethnography, or the study of a culture.
“This specific project, the director of the gallery, Danielle, asked me about a year ago if I like to do something,” Riccio said. “And so, I devised this [the installation]. My performance score by theater work is very immersive and site specific, so I kind of modeled [it] after that, like simultaneous actions.”
The “Dragon Eye” art exhibit hopes to make ethnographic galleries fun and interactive and to be aware of the way we treat ethnic and indigenous minorities, such as the Miao.
“Be aware of the suppression,” Riccio said. “And the fact that the world is transitioning very quickly. What they [Miao] do is essentially embody their rituals and their songs, and the earth, and basically speak to Earth.”