Artist: Yujia Gu
Exhibition: Tracing Gun Violence in the USA
Media: Mixed Media, Print, Projection
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Dutzi Gallery
About the Artist
Yujia Gu is currently at CSULB working on her MFA in Graphic Design. She is originally from Beijing, China, and a lot of her family remains there. She earned her BFA in Graphic Design in China, and after she receives her Masters degree, she may return to China. Before coming to Long Beach, she studied in New York for a few months. She loves to hike and go to various museums. She also has a love for photography, drawing and painting. She was shocked when she came to the United States and saw all the problems that exist here with gun violence. She thought that her family had been exaggerating when they told her to be careful, but one look at the daily news cycle and she realized that they were not wrong, and these facts inspired her exhibition.
The image that you see first and foremost in this exhibition are all the images of a man’s outline, similar to what is on the outside of a men’s bathroom, meant to represent another person killed by gun violence. They show each countries numbers of victims, and the United States spans three walls while the other countries only span half of one, if that. There is a projection on one of the walls that shows images of “normal” suburban settings alternating with the worlds “United States,” “mass,” and “shootings.” On the other wall are names of victims of gun violence and black and white images of people. On the wall to the right of that there are the same outlines of the men followed by outlines of guns and the words, ” to protect themselves from more and more [people] are buying [guns] more and more”
The images and the words she used are meant to shock the viewer. We tend to see these acts of gun violence as ordinary, everyday occurences. Gu wants to bring awareness to these issues and call attention to why immediate action is needed. Her mother talked to her about international students being killed by gun violence and she became very worried. Gu realized just how serious this issue was when she realized her mother was right to worry. Her work emphasizes the numbers of people killed in each shooting with an LED light up display. The numbers of people who span the wall are the yearly death rates. As the viewer you are overwhelmed by the numbers of people, but also by their names and faces. Her answer to all the gun violence would be gun control. She knows it won’t be easy, but it is necessary.
Synthesis / My Experience
The way that she used the outlines of people that we tend to see as more of a “statistic” next to real images of those killed and their names really brought attention to the point she was trying to make. It is really easy to ignore the problem when we see these people as a statistic, but when they have names and faces it becomes harder to ignore. With her projection of ordinary scenes, I think she was trying to say that gun violence can happen anywhere, even in our own neighborhood. With this acknowledgement that the people who have lost their lives to gun violence were just like us or our loved ones, the need for immediate change becomes stronger. She really showed why we need to advocate for stronger gun laws and gun control. In other countries, like the UK, it is difficult to get a gun and sentencing for having a gun illegally is very harsh. This makes it so guns are not a common place item, and therefore there is less violence. People in the United States complain about “having their guns taken away,” but in reality they only want the guns to protect themselves from others who have guns. When you look at Gu’s exhibition, she points out this absurdity, that people buy guns to protect themselves from gun violence, and its a vicious cycle.