the work of WIND AIR LAND SEA

light air
14–23 SEPT. 2018

The House Sets the North

Xiaojing Yan

In The House Sets the North, 30,000 metres of thread constructs a translucent courtyard, which appears airy, fleeting, and insubstantial—like a mirage floating above Mississauga’s Southdown Industrial Area. Viewers are invited to walk into the work to engage with the space, stimulating ideas and memories through the embodied experience of thread walls.


Where is home? The question is among the central concerns of many immigrants. As an artist living and travelling across continents and cultures, Xiaojing Yan represents home as a concept always in flux.


Designed based on the traditional Chinese courtyard, which aligns with the cardinal directions, Yan’s installation explores how the symbolism of the four directions and the four seasons resonates across spiritual, cultural, geographical, and cosmological scales. Creating spatial confusion and contesting viewers’ perceptions of time and space, the structure explores how landscape and environment serve as important reference points for human experience. The House Sets the North questions how we must reckon with this experience in an age of rapid environmental shifts that impact not only the notion of “home” (with significant seasonal changes, resource-based conflict, and environmental disasters increasingly driving global migration), but humanity’s attitude towards our planetary future. Recognizing our dependence on planets and stars for navigation, guidance, and assurance, The House Sets the North brings together personal narratives of displacement, public and private space, recognition and alienation, with the celestial and interplanetary concerns of a changing world. Anchored in Lakeside Park, the structure nonetheless appears precarious, reflecting the ongoing intensity of human impact on the earth, and the delicacy of our continued presence here.


Xiaojing Yan is a Chinese-Canadian artist working and living in Markham, Ontario. She received a BFA from Nanjing University of the Arts in 2000 and an MFA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2007. Her work has been shown internationally, including at the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Suzhou Museum, China. Her work has been collected by many museums, institutions, and private collectors. She is also a recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the 2014 Outstanding Young Alumni Award from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Project Grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Chalmers Arts Fellowship, and Mid-Career Visual Artist Grant from the Ontario Arts Council.