Discussing Wang and Yens Theory of Hybridization

Hybridization is a fusion of different kinds of concepts themes identities and styles, which occurs across cultural boundaries. It has been a global trend in cultural production. According to Wang and Yens opinionhybridization is not merely a course of blending and synthesizing. Along with the mixtureNew formats and relations will emerge. As what Wang and Yen refer to, during the blending of different cultural languages, new structures and practices will be generated with the limit of unitary utterance while the spirits of time are compressed to eternal symbols. In this paper, I will briefly summarize the discourse surrounding Wang and Yens opinion about of hybridization and will argue for his view by examining three examples of hybridized cultural products from the fields of sculpture, jewelry and exhibition arrangement; namely an installation Chandelier Mori: Speak of Me as I Am (by Fred Wilson, 1991), a set of jewelry Immortal Symbols series(by Xiao Liu, 2013), an exhibition Ritratti, a Palazzo Madama consisted of video portraits( by Robert Wilson, 2015).

According to Kraidy (2005, p.6), hybridization is an association of distinct themes, notions, and perceptions rather than a single concept. It emerges through the fusion of relatively dissimilar elements such as forms, styles, and identities from the progress of cross-cultural contact. Stimulated by globalization, the progress of cross-cultural encounters and exchange was accelerated, which led to the growth in the diversity of cultureand the innovation of artistic structures (Cowen, 2002, pp.2-10). More specifically, these sociocultural processes segregate the existing forms or practices, combine and mix them to generate new frameworks, objects, and connections (Canclini, 2008, p.20). The appearance of new forms and the transformation of cultures are inevitable as the result of its obligatory fusion of cultural difference (John, 1999, p.59).

In the intercultural and multicultural context, two distinct cultures contradict and reinforce with each other when they blend, which also fosters the generation of new frames and connections. This concept is specifically appropriate for Fred Wilson, an interdisciplinary and multimedia contemporary African American installation artist for his intercultural identities and experience in Venice, African, Europe, and America. Consequently, His art is based on the multicultural experiment and grafted concept. For instance, his exhibition which concluded an installation Chandelier Mori: Speak of Me as I Am was held at the Venice Biennale as a representative of the United States. The freakish Chandelier was made in Murano black glass instead of the usual white and clean glass. Murano is a traditional style that appears at the CaRezzonico, the peak of the traditional Venetian glass blowing. Further, Venice holds a special position in the long and complicated history of Christian Europes interactions with people of black African descent and Wilson engaged in this topic during his artistic life. Therefore he used the form of traditional Chandelier to not only connote the specific culture but also generated a connection with the title of the exhibition. The title of the exhibition proclaims the connection by quoting from Othellos long final speech: Speak of me as I am, which is also a cipher, a figure signifying the absence of blackness just as there were no women on Shakespeares stage. Garners its comprehensive combination of the civilization of European and African, he created a characteristic and conceptual form with various complicated implication. Thus, the redefinition of the connections between different cultures will appear in the course of the hybridization progress.

Likewise, forms and materials have a specific identity and signification from different culture backgrounds. When they are hybrid with each other, the new artistic language will emerge. It is also a common phenomenon in the artistic field, especially in Contemporary jewelry design for the meticulous and always innovatory designing methods. Xiao LiusImmortal Symbol Series(2013)consists of 20 pieces of multicolored geometric plastic pendants. These slices were made of the materials of plastic bags, which he collected from supermarkets in British. The plastic bags were transformed into the form of Jade covers and plugs through melting and squeezing. The jade covers and plugs are common artifacts in Chinese burial culture, usually found on ancient death masks in China of the Han dynasty (206BC- AD220), symbolizing the prevention ofoutsidethepsyche after death and the procurement of eternal life, also a symbol of immortal. On the part of appearance, The plastic jade slices revealed uncontrollably and abstract veins along with the original colors of the plastic bags after progressing. These plaques are individual pendants with vivid artificial colors and the immortal product of the widely and universally accepted global consumerism, which was just the artists intended dispute and irony. In other words, the modern consumer society leaves us with this kind of material that is quiterecalcitranttodegradation just connote the unconscious habit of consumption which has deeply embedded in our consciousness, also a metaphor of the Consumption symbol. Consequently, the artist combined both the traditional Funeral form and the modern material that both were eternal to rethink the unconscious consumption behaviors. To conclude, the hybridization of the modern material and traditional form within the same discourse generated a characteristic form, also reinforced the connection of modern and tradition and crated an eternity symbol.

When it comes to the field of exhibition arrangement, the utilization of the notion of hybridization is generally, to not only associate the fragmented message but also promote the innovation of artistic expression. For instance, the solo Exhibition of Contemporary artist Robert Wilson, Ritratti, a Palazzo Madama was held in Fondazione Terino Musei and Prix Italia in 2008, consisted of one hundred video portraits lasting thirty seconds each, dates back to 1978, ranging from ordinary people to actress, westerner to an easterner, human-being to animals. The whole exhibition assumed a hybrid form: in terms of its environment, modern digital screens and dynamic portraits with repetition and slow-motion crossovers the internal space of this baroque museum, which exerted visual contradiction but also a fascination of subtle balance. In terms of the artworks, two cultures actively traverse Wilsons work: the Western culture and the Eastern culture. The former participates in the breakdown of complexity into modular entities, the latter in the expanded and detailed perception of time. Both cultures concur to create anew virtual and eternal space which gave a distinctive experience. More specifically, Wilson displayed a mono filmed episode of a Chinese artist Gao Xingjian who bore the handwriting on his face like stigmata, for all to see that solitude is the necessary condition of freedom in the middle of a hall. Besides the Chinese portrait, there were two different works; one represented a dancer who assumed the saints stillness: Saint Sebastian pierced by arrows and firm in his resolve for martyrdom, the other represented a half-naked stripteaser Dita Von Teese who was sitting on a swing elegantly. These three works had completely distinct shooting targets and themes while Wilsons Characteristics of artistic photography with a kind of vintage style and fade or self-colored backgroundhad unified them as a whole. Their dislocation of time and space minimized the cognitive difference and coordinated the various elements, reinforce and contradict each other. In general, this exhibition reorganized the fragmented identity information and established new connections between themselves. The fragmentation and reorganization of space and time, the conjunction of the Western culture and the Eastern culture, the collection of small emotional and narrative events concur to build up an eternal memory and experience machinewhich not only helps the spectator to be on the same wavelength but also help artists development. The development of the artists research will generate new artistic language through the progress of connecting and blending different elements.

This paper has argued for Wang and Yens opinion about whether the new forms and the new connections will emerge in the course of hybridization. It then examined three examples from different artistic fields as hybrid experiments which either reorganized the internal elements, break the cultural boundaries and realize the intercultural synthesizing. These results and progress demonstrate that cultures set up new concatenations and form a new structure during the hybridization progress with the limitation of a single form. Apart from that, they also capture the spirit of a multicultural society and resonate with the transformation of global cultures, ultimately come into being an eternal symbol not only of the course of time but also of their own artistic life.


  • Cowen, T. (2002) Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the Worlds Cultures. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp.2-10.
  • Canclini (2008)Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press,p .20.
  • Globus, D(2001) Fred Wilson: a critical reader. London: Ridinghouse, pp.27
  • Guignery, V (2011) Hybridity : Forms and Figures in Literature and the Visual Arts, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publisher,pp.35
  • Kraidy, M.M (2005) hybridity: or the cultural logic of globalization. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, p.6


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