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<ADAM'S Dream> Shell, lightless heat bulb, river sand, sea sand ,Size variable, Beaconsfield gallery, London, UK ,Photo © Weiyu Dou, 2023


<ADAM'S Dream> Shell, lightless heat bulb, river sand, sea sand ,Size variable, Beaconsfield gallery, London, UK ,Photo © Weiyu Dou, 2023

<ADAM'S Dream> Shell, lightless heat bulb, river sand, sea sand ,Size variable, Beaconsfield gallery, London, UK ,Photo © Weiyu Dou, 2023

In this research, my focus lies on capturing and exploring the transmission and evaporation of intense emotions in letter exchanges. Due to the absence of nonverbal cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, tone, and body language in this unique form of communication, these missing clues inevitably lead to the gradual "burning" and "evaporation" of emotions and desires over time. My aim is to establish a connection between tactile memory in my fingertips and temperature, allowing me to capture and interpret the physical disappearance of emotions in the communication between the two parties by unveiling the geographical remoteness. My goal is to extract the material properties and construct a "postcard" composed of seashells, transforming the overwhelming emotional energy conveyed in letter exchanges, transcending distant time, into an unconventional representation of temperature.


Postcard of the station and the Sanatorium du Mont-Blanc, Leysin, posted in 1901, from the collection of Véronique Bernard. Photographed by the author on a restaurant dining table in Lausanne, April 2022, MAP , 


Hidden Emotions
During my visit to an antiquarian bookstore, I encountered a remarkable discovery—a concealed box tucked away in the depths of the store, brimming with a collection of vintage postcards. These postcards comprised a series featuring renowned male celebrities of the time in England. On the reverse side of each postcard, one could find inscriptions revealing the interests, favorite movies, and music of these celebrities. Yet, despite their existence, these postcards seemed to have been an unpopular commodity during that era. This piqued my curiosity, as it seemed unlikely for individuals to purchase postcards depicting handsome male stars and dispatch them to distant recipients.
Thus, the act of perusing these postcards became a unique way for me to transcend time and partake in the silent exchange of emotions. As my fingers glided over the surface of each postcard, they seemed to exude a transcendent serenity that defied the constraints of time, concealing untold narratives within. They unveiled the unspoken gravity and restraint that once permeated the interactions between individuals of different genders. Through the examination of these postcards, which conveyed intimate sentiments across generations, I sensed the interplay of emotions between the authors and their beloved—a genuine yearning to transcend the complexities of time and embrace the urgency of traversing geographical boundaries in emotional understanding. In this era of modern communication, how much endurance and restraint do we still possess when confronted with the insurmountable limitations of time and distance in our relationships?
During our Pathway Teaching workshop, one particular postcard that captured my attention was from the Sanatorium du Mont-Blanc in Leysin, Switzerland. Contemplating these postcards, I couldn't help but wonder about the genuine emotions and thoughts encapsulated within them. Would the recipients, or the patients, receive responses as passionate, fervent, and sublime as the sentiments expressed? I grasped the solitude and profound affection evoked by the sanatorium nestled deep in the snowy mountains. Hence, the communications, poetry, and face-to-face interactions conveyed by the patients—all these modes of exchange encapsulated a profound and solitary energy. When absorbed by the postcards, these interactions enhanced their presence, individuality, and intimacy, evoking a kaleidoscope of emotions between the senders and recipients in this world. Anticipation, pain, and burning desire intertwine. Behind the smooth paper surface, how much uncontrollable and untranslatable longing and sorrow converge?



The Birth of Venus (c. 1485) by Sandro Botticelli; Sandro Botticelli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


 Liao Riverside, Xinmin Town, China, Photo © Weiyu Dou, 2023

In Botticelli's painting "The Birth of Venus," Venus stands within a seashell. According to the "Theogony," Venus is the genitals of Uranus, which was severed by Cronus and thrown into the sea. If the birth of Venus is the result of castration, her identity can be seen as an embodiment of desire. When we open a seashell, it signifies that the creature inside has already died, so when you look at an empty seashell placed before you, it implies that the previous inhabitant has been decomposed or consumed by other creatures. Can the seashell that carries her be regarded as a vessel that contains life and desire after death? Just like the feeling I had when I first picked up those ancient postcards, the writers of the letters are already so distant from us,  I suppose the recipients of the letters have also departed from this world. Therefore, I began to contemplate the seashell as a vessel for past lives and started collecting shells that had a similar appearance. 
In the winter of 2022, I collected two remarkably similar shells from the French southern coastline at the Chelsea Herb Garden market. When I first touched their interiors, I felt their smoothness and softness. It was as if I was touching the innermost hearts of those two strangers communicating from distant Switzerland. Just like these two shells, individual entities that met in the vast sea, their encounter, as seen throughout history, is like the ability shared by postcard communication to evoke memories, deconstruct time, and bring history into the present. In the process of caressing and feeling, Just like William Fuller once said that postcards exist in the tension between imagined privacy. I hope to connect the fantasies within the old postcards by opening the shells, thereby deciphering the transcendent emotional privacy embedded in the vintage postcards.

A postcard is a frozen moment, with words preserving the author's self-expression. It might contains the fleeting gaze, elusive women, accidental encounters, and mysterious and meaningless poetry that  and each individual are concerned about. However, in the process of crossing and mailing, as the letters are exchanged, stories accumulate, and the intimacy of the original emotions is fragmented geographically. Do our intense emotions in letter exchanges follow the law of energy conservation? When I diligently study the transfer of heat from a hotter object to a colder one, I realise the metaphorical significance of this process in symbolising intense emotions. According to the second law of thermodynamics, I apply the force on myself and interact with the surrounding environment to facilitate heat transfer and circulation. However, unfortunately, not all heat can be converted into meaningful "work," just as the reciprocal display of wonderful love on seashells.
When we invest a significant amount of love and care in others, we often receive responses lacking vitality, which may even dissipate rapidly within a short time. I am deeply concerned about the dissipation of this energy, as in such circumstances, energy cannot be transformed into meaningful “work."

Therefore, I endeavor to construct an imbalance composed of strength, emotions, thoughts, and sorrow, relying on the intimate privacy held within the seashell as a metaphor to illustrate this phenomenon. This brings to mind my personal experience of engaging in a three-year long-distance communication with an Asian individual residing in the United States, entirely through online chat and video calls, without ever meeting in person. Similar to the prevalent virtual intimacy in online culture, the ancient method of postcard mailing greatly amplifies the psychological connection while diminishing direct physical perception. I resonate deeply with this phenomenon. In the realm of virtual intimacy, such "non-physical medium illusions" are expected, blurring the boundaries between communicators. However, when one person's profound love and care exceed the other's capacity for reciprocity, the geographical and temporal distance inevitably creates an imbalance in the temperature of the energy field. This process violates the law of energy conservation and inflicts psychological harm on an individual.

With meticulous care, I evenly sprinkle river sand from my hometown in China and beach sand from the southern coast of England beneath the seashell. At first glance, one might not discern much difference between them, as the sand from England forms a dappled layer atop, shimmering when illuminated by ample light. Without any explanation, observers may fail to perceive any distinction. However, in reality, the encounter before us has traversed over eight thousand miles and twelve hours of flight time. I persist in my endeavor to bring their encounter to you, just like those ancient postcards placed before us: You will never fathom the countless journeys those slightly wrinkled corners and patterns have undergone in the process of exchange and delivery, until they finally settle upon the table.

          Hasting Sea front , Hasting, UK,Photo © Weiyu Dou, 2023

<ADAM'S Dream> Shell, lightless heat bulb, river sand, sea sand ,Size variable, Beaconsfield gallery, London, UK ,Photo © Weiyu Dou, 2023

<ADAM'S Dream> Shell, lightless heat bulb, river sand, sea sand ,Size variable, Beaconsfield gallery, London, UK ,Photo © Ziyu Wang, 2023

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