Mengqi Xu: I See Fish in the Somber Woods | 林深时见鱼

A brightly colored fish sculpture swims amongst white and black backdrop elements

I See Fish in the Somber Woods is an immersive light installation that explores the behavioral change and desperate migration of animals to avoid extinction due to climate change. Inspired by traditional Chinese art (calligraphy, poetry, painting, and architecture), Mengqi constructed a surreal and poetic futuristic spectacle.

From global warming and habitat destruction to overfishing and the introduction of invasive species, human activities profoundly impact nature. Behavioral changes are often a species’ first reaction to a change in environmental factors to increase the chances of surviving and reproducing.

The installation features large-scale fish made from bamboo splits and mulberry paper using a traditional Chinese lantern-making technique, hanging along with painted silk fabric strips representing birch forests. The flower petals further emphasize the withered destiny of fish living under deteriorating conditions.

The tragic yet romantic presence of fish in such seemingly impossible surroundings alerts people to the forced migration experienced by animal species due to human-caused climate change.

Born in Kunming, China, Mengqi Xu is currently an assistant teaching professor and an artist at Penn State. Mengqi works in 2D and 3D art, including sculpture, jewelry, and photography. Her design pieces focus on telling a story and connecting with the viewer on a personal level. She obtained her BFA degree in industrial design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her MFA degree in sculpture at Penn State.