Infinitely Noncyclic Chain

Yuan Xin

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Three characters. First is a man taking a photo of a local villager who is wearing a yak coat while trying to cross the border between China's Tibet Autonomous Region and Nepal, traveling in a northwest-southeast direction in the Himalayas. Second, an archaeologist is enjoying her first sip of morning coffee in her office. Finally, a voiceover is narrating a possible story about a high school student who went missing from school one week ago.

The three characters should be observed simultaneously, even though they are in three unrelated environments, and are merely participants in random incidents happening at this very moment in three different parts of the world.

Now, imagine our first character: the photo he took and posted online quickly went viral on the Internet and is being described as an “Unidentified Himalayas Object.’ It ostensibly shows an unknown animal caught on camera, and many netizens have made multiple suggestions as to what the image conveys— including Bigfoot, a werewolf from the game Altered Beast, and even Carole Baskin of Tiger King fame. Now, we assume, in the exact same instant in which the number of comments on the post is reaching 10,000, our second character, who is sitting in her swivel chair, clutching a fine ceramic coffee cup, is gently blowing the heat away and taking her first sip of coffee in the morning. We need to imagine our third character, the voice-over, as the missing link between the first and second characters, a very thin thread of connection. So while a history graduate student types his comment to the post of the first character, the archaeologist continues sipping her coffee, the bitter and rich taste of coffee unfolding slowly in her mouth, perfectly in sync with the calm of the morning. Our third character, the voice-over...male...deep...with a steady, serious, and compassionate tone, begins the first line of the story, “A high school student mysteriously disappeared after class in the Himalayas near the border between China's Tibet Autonomous Region and Nepal. Disturbingly, the disappearance came shortly after the first evidence of werewolves in the area, a phenomenon that local archaeologists have linked to the long-held hypothesis of a ‘hollow earth.’ According to multiple credible sightings in the mountains near the high school, the existence of the mythical creature “werewolf” is not just a local legend. The movements and characteristics of these creatures are strikingly consistent with traditional descriptions of werewolves, supporting an archaeologists’ theory that there may be a portal to the hollow Earth near the Himalayas from which werewolves came.”

Here, an excellent archaeologist who studies ancient civilizations is now welcoming the peak of her remarkable career—a brilliant scholar has finally gained public recognition six years after publishing her academic paper. This is the implosion of the story: one character creates the conditions for another character to exist, while being influenced by the third.

But as I mentioned, these three characters should be read as nothing more than three singularities. They just exist, influence each other, and result in each other...Like a chain, from left to right, right to left, middle to left and then to right, middle to right and then to left...So the whole situation could be read from totally different perspectives.

For example, assume our second character, sitting in a comfortable leather chair, gently lifts her head and presses her coffee cup to her lips. While her eyes naturally drop to the floor, she notices that the refraction of the light on the ground not only creates a unique ripple pattern on the floor, but also casts strange spots of light on the walls. And at the exact same time, our first character just got 10,000 comments on his post, and is kind of enjoying being the center of attention. Now, we know that without our third character, our story is not complete. So our third character, the voice-over...male... deep...with a steady, serious, and compassionate tone, begins the first line of the story, “An archaeologist recently gained attention for helping police solve the mystery of a missing high school student. The female archaeologist was drinking coffee on an ordinary morning when she came across the special patterns formed by the refraction of light on the floor, which reminded her of the optical illusions she often encountered on her field trips. In high-altitude snow, sunlight often refracts through ice crystals, creating dazzling lighting effects that sometimes blur or distort images in photos. So she has to question the authenticity of recent werewolf photos and eventually discovers a possible hoax. Her identity and research quickly have become widely discussed on social media and caught the attention of the police. The police then contacted her and used her in-depth knowledge of the area to solve a missing high school student case.”

So one character creates the conditions for another character to exist, while being influenced by the third. Now, if the first character has a chance to use each other to divert the direction of the story, what would happen to our third character? What if next time, there aren't just three characters?

Yuan Xin’s creations span various mediums and themes, from printed materials to immersive 3D videos, exploring the reexamination of memory, dream, female identity and the unseen beyond the surface of the human experience. Her work invites viewers into virtual landscapes, often integrating montage, theatrical environments, and metaphorical concepts into her presentation, or referencing works of Chinese literature. She tracks forms of feeling and communicating hidden behind social constructs and digital cognition, unfolding into sensitive and often somber narratives.