On 11/11, known as “Singles Day” in China, Edison Chen, calling from Hawaii, and Cecilia Dean in New York City got together via Zoom for a chat about Visionaire 69, being produced in Shanghai. By that time, the issue was well into production and this was a moment to reflect on the process and how the edition came to be.
“My first conversation with Edison Chen happened on December 12, 2019. I was in Las Vegas overseeing shipments of VISIONAIRE editions going to China. We had just formed a new company, STARK VISIONAIRE, based in Shanghai and I was going there for our first project which was to introduce VISIONAIRE to a new audience via an immersive installation.
I joined a WeChat call with Edison along with his partner Rich and my colleague Jennifer. Edison talked articulately about VISIONAIRE issues he owned and the times in which they were made. He observed that we both grew up with landlines and answering machines and experienced first-hand the transition to the worldwide web, smart phones, and social media. Our generation is well-versed in both the analog and digital worlds, unlike any generation before or after. In addition, Edison is fully immersed in street culture and streetwear, having started his career in rap and hip-hop and branching into streetwear and street culture. Edison spoke about the physicality of VISIONAIRE editions and its juxtaposition with the ephemerality of online. Perusing an issue of VISIONAIRE is an interactive action. We left the conversation open-ended, giving me and my team time to brainstorm.
Edison’s involvement with street culture got me thinking about street art, a medium that has long fascinated me: the ephemeral nature of this medium, this public yet coded communication tool, the calls to action, the memorials, the ego. So we dived into the research.
After almost 2 months away from home, I returned to NYC from Shanghai. Our research landed us on the idea of a “stencil kit" complete with stencils by artists and spray paint. I proposed this to Edison at the beginning of February. He loved the format and started thinking about what he would ask from his creative community. What was the message? What would be the art?
And then Friday March 13, 2020 hit us…and NYC was in pandemic lockdown. It was a time of confusion, anxiety, and change. We all adjusted to a new way of life. The whole world came to a halt.
By early summer, China was re-emerging and our team in Shanghai resumed quasi-normal life. America was still grappling. But we continued to develop the stencil kit. I came across some examples of decorative, antique stencils from the turn-of-the-last-century made in copper. Copper seemed like such a prescient idea because of its anti-bacterial nature. And in seeming contrast, copper remembers; it is an archive of all the hands that have touched it, all the people who have interacted with it, reminding me of family and friends we're decidedly not interacting with.
Copper oxidizes over time to form a unique turquoise patina, which, in a twist of fate, was a convenient reference to Edison’s company 3125C which is the Pantone code for turquoise. Adding a turquoise silk scarf by Edison’s apparel brand CLOT ties the whole issue together, literally.
We started outreaching to artists in late-September. Edison wanted to acknowledge the pandemic, to look back at 2020 and learn from it. That was the ask to his community. In a weird way, the pandemic gave VISIONAIRE 69 its driving force.
2020 has been a tumultuous year for everyone in the world. Photographer Nick Knight’s depiction of violence isn’t so much about 2 men fighting, but about humanity’s struggles with the invisible and abstract forces we are defending ourselves from; whether that be the virus, misinformation, or our own self-doubts. But we are fighting back and as supermodel and activist Naomi Campbell says, “Winners are Dreamers Who Never Give Up,” broadcasting the words of her friend and mentor the late great Nelson Mandela. And dreamers we are…Artist, sculptor, painter Tom Sachs mines his obsessions with space travel within his own art practice, allowing us to escape this world by letting our imagination fly. Tattoo artist to the stars Dr. Woo re-creates his version of the constellations that lead us back to “a nice place”. Painter Zeng Fanzhi contributes a poetic brushstroke to get lost in; a fluidity that contrasts with the hard stencil format of laser-cut copper. Multi-media artist Cao Fei’s logo references a “futuristic architecture and sculpture” as part of her new HX project. Basketball star and activist LeBron James advocates the voice of the individual by combatting voter suppression through the organization he founded along with other prominent black athletes and entertainers called “More Than A Vote”, all in an effort for racial justice and justice for all in the United States. We have the power to make progress as a united front. Painter Kelly Beeman’s poignant portrait gives a face to this united front. HBA designer Shayne Oliver’s depiction of a shepherd-less lamb roams free to forge its own destiny in a new world. And, finally, we end with optimism. 3-year old Alaia Chen represents that next generation of citizens in this new world: she is the future.
The edition is a beautiful object: the intricately laser-cut copper stencils are in themselves powerful and engaging. In addition, however, this issue also acts as public art inviting people to action.”