The Franklin Furnace Fund and Asian Women Giving Circle are pleased to present FIREWALL, a pop-up Internet Café and participatory art installation in New York City by Joyce Yu-Jean Lee, on view from Tuesday, February 9 through Sunday, March 6, 2016.
FIREWALL is a socially engaged research and interactive art project designed to foster public dialogue about Internet freedom. Video and installation artist Joyce Yu-Jean Lee, in collaboration with artist and technologist Dan Phiffer, invites residents and tourists of NYC to commune over free tea and Wi-fi at Chinatown Soup, a creative space on the border of New York City’s Lower East Side. FIREWALL enables participants to simultaneously search images on both Google in the U.S. and Baidu in China to investigate online censorship and manipulation of information between these two countries. In this cooperative performance, Lee explores a rapidly developing web culture, the nuances of language translation, and the notion that everything can be found on the Internet.
The research results will be presented in two forms for viewers from both nations to compare, contrast, and cross- reference:
1) A virtual FIREWALL “library” will be maintained at www.firewallcafe.com. Search results will be catalogued daily into this blog, which will continue to document the project after FIREWALL Internet Café closes its brick-and-mortar space after March 6, 2016.
2) An evolving art exhibition within the FIREWALL space will showcase select image searches by participants, who will include invited guests and key leaders in the academic, activism, art, journalism, and Chinese communities of NYC and beyond.
As a Chinese American digital media artist with parents who fled China during the Communist Revolution, Joyce Yu-Jean Lee is interested in the formation of collective national biases by mass media. Lee asks, “What value do cross-cultural artistic and interactive media experiences have vis-a-vis social and political open-mindedness?” Her FIREWALL process intentionally slows viewers down in an interpersonal exchange of words, images, knowledge, and opinions examining how “truth” is transformed by technology. The resulting conversation, the true art of the process and intrinsic art making, reflects Lee’s philosophy of art as tool for connectivity and learning.
Joyce Yu-Jean Lee is a visual artist with a MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. She has exhibited in NYC, Miami, Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C., Italy, Germany, and Taiwan. The Washington Post included her in their “Top 10 Best Art Gallery Shows” in D.C. for 2012. She was selected for Creative Capital’s “On Our Radar” in 2014, and received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2013. Joyce is a trustee for The Contemporary museum in Baltimore, and teaches part-time at Fashion Institute of Technology and New Jersey City University.
The artist offers special thanks to GreatFire.org for providing Chinese Internet connections and human connections. GreatFire is a hacktivist group that has been monitoring blocked websites and keywords on the Chinese Internet since 2011, in an effort to bring transparency to the Great Firewall of China. GreatFire also operates FreeWeibo.com, an uncensored version of Weibo, as well as FreeBrowser.org, an Android app that allows users in China to access any site, even those blocked by the government. Lee’s special thanks also go to The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art for loaning hardware to the Internet Café, and to UProxy.org for developing an open source browser extension that lets users share their route to the Internet with each other.