The Chinese character 回 hui means to return, to turn around, to circle or to reply. To return implies movement, but the one who is returning must choose the direction. Why does one return to something, someone, or somewhere?
Radical Return is the first exhibition presented by Radical Characters, a study group and curatorial project that explores the relationship between design and culture in the Chinese and Chinese American community. Radical Characters hopes to decentralize the design canon and to co-build history and community by initiating dialogues through educational experiences. Each project is informed by a W1 Hanzi (Chinese character) as a starting point of inquiry. As a growing study group, Radical Characters openly seeks out opportunities to gather and to share collective knowledge within and beyond the Chinese and Chinese American community.
An international call for submissions prompted participants to use as a grid-visually and conceptually-to frame their response to the exhibition theme. The selected work features 36 Chinese and Chinese American artists and graphic designers who explore acts of return through language, tradition, memory, identity, and history. This group of artists works across a range of media to embrace, challenge, and expand what it means to “return” in their artistic practice and in relation to their positions in the world today. The exhibition opens up a collective space to learn, innovate, and study graphic design from a non-linear approach as well as probes our societal traditions and cultures. Radical Characters acknowledges that the works by no means form a complete picture of the multifaceted and complex narratives experienced by Chinese and Chinese American designers, but rather shape an in-progress collection site for building knowledge through the exchange of graphic design and culture.