Julian Hou: Life of a resident artist

Dreamweed, secondpuberty | Photo by Cemrenaz Uygune

In the Fall of 2018, local artist Julian Hou started a media arts residency at Western Front to further develop his art practice through exploratory research. Hou’s projects often weave various media pieces together that build multi-layered narratives for audience members to contemplate.

I often work in several mediums simultaneously and gradually something emerges in between. I don’t communicate about future works because things are usually in motion,” says Hou.

For the 38-year-old UBC architecture graduate, most of his life has been comprised of art-making. Recently, he decided to take a step back from his freelance architecture and design work to commit himself fully to his performative and fine art. This break gave Hou limitless dedication to his art practice at Western Front.

“Julian is one of the local residency artists who is working on a longer extended project. Each artist is different, some have defined, big productions and immediate performances while others research and explore, gather the materials here while the work comes out much later,” says Allison Collins, curator of the media arts program at Western Front.

The makings of an artist

Even during the Western Front residency, Hou still has his hands in other projects. Recently, he dismantled Dreamweed, a recent installation that was on display at Unit 17 in Kitsilano. This installation featured various handmade costumes and wall hangings with repeated patterns and designs which the artist has been working on over the last year.

Most of Hou’s exhibits feature architectural, cross-sectional references, an interest which he credits to his former instructor, UBC professor George Wagner. According to Hou, Wagner often emphasized the use and exploration of cross section drawings in his classes. Hou was intrigued by the magical perspective of the cross section and how it reveals interior spaces and places. Other main features in his exhibitions are audio dialogues interwoven with music. Sound and audio experimentation has always been part of Hou’s art practice.

“When I was in Grade 7, I remember making these elaborate mixtapes combining and overdubbing segments of dialogues from various hip-hop track intros. Then later on in graduate school, I was part of a two-person electronic hip hop performance duo called The Stick,” says Hou.

Residencies and other adventures

Western Front is a Vancouver artist-run centre for contemporary art and new music. They produce and present visual art, exhibitions, new music concerts and workshops, media-art residencies, performance art and other artist-driven initiatives. It was founded in 1973 by eight artists who wanted to create a space for the exploration and creation of new art forms. The current programs in Western Front’s Exhibitions, Media Art and New Music facilitate a platform for interdisciplinary, experimental art practices such as Hou’s.

The extensive history of the Western Front’s artist space, much of this background often enters into the works created here,” says Collins.

Hou’s research is examining how the build’s many spaces get used and all the technologies they are employing. His process involves spending time with people, tools and environments before setting forth on a production.

“It is a combination of these things and the cultural environment that I’m in – these contribute to what I’m working on. The space, tools and individuals can really shape how I approach the work,” says Hou.

Travelling and expanding his art practice are Hou’s main focal points for 2019. In January, he starts a three-month production residency in Marseilles, France, at Triangle. Following this, he plans to be back for a Fall performance with VIVO Media Arts. All in all, Hou is living up to his new emerging artist title as awarded by the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Visual Arts in 2017.

For more information: www.julianhou.com