Wed, Oct 01, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Unblocking the creative flow

Taiwanese artist Feng Yu-ting entertains art goers at New York’s Dumbo Arts Festival with her interactive poetry installation Dear Deer

By Dana Ter  /  Contributing Reporter in New York

Participants answer a series of mad libs-style questions from the deer in the overhead projector as part of Feng Yu-ting’s interactive poetry installation, Dear Deer.

Photo: Dana Ter

The annual Dumbo Arts Festival by the Hudson River in Brooklyn, New York attracts tens of thousands of eager art enthusiasts each year. So it is no small feat for young Taiwanese artist Feng Yu-ting (馮鈺婷) to have her art installation showcased during the three-day long event.

An interactive poetry installation, Deer Dear is designed to function as a solution to help cure writer’s block. Participants sit at a desk with a wooden typewriter and answer a series of mad libs-style questions prompted by a gentleman in a deer mask seen in an overhead projector. Upon completion, the typewriter churns out a receipt with a completed poem printed on it. The receipt also serves as a quirky festival souvenir.

Unsurprisingly, a good majority of the poems end up being silly and nonsensical rather than profound masterpieces. The goal of the installation however, is to encourage participants to think outside of the box, demonstrating that inspiration for brilliant ideas can come from the most unexpected circumstances.


A common theme in Feng’s artwork is bridging communication. Although the deer mask may appear comical, it is also symbolic.

“I never wore masks in Taiwan, but when I moved to New York for graduate school, I started to wear a mask whenever I did performance art,” Feng tells the Taipei Times.

When friends and viewers questioned her about the significance of the mask, Feng admitted that it was a way to conceal her identity.

“The mask hides my race and I wore it so I wouldn’t have to speak in English,” says Feng.

In Toaster Bunny for instance, Feng wears a rabbit mask while performing a humorous dance depicting the mundane and repetitive nature of everyday tasks like waking up, toasting bread and going to work.

The Dumbo Arts Festival brought Feng out of her comfort zone — this time, it was her friend who wore the deer mask seen in the overhead projector. Far from being shy, Feng was extremely chatty with participants who were mostly 20-something hipsters interested in taking Instagram-worthy photos with a “vintage” typewriter and a deer.

Although the installation might appear fun and light-hearted for participants, it holds deeper meaning for Feng.

“The idea for Dear Deer started with my foreigner’s point of view,” Feng says. “Whenever I want to write something fancy, my language barrier leaves me stuck at ‘Dear’.”

The installation was created as part of a project for Feng’s poetry writing class at New York University. It first debuted in Grand Central Station in April before it was selected as one of the exhibits for the Dumbo Arts Festival.

Throughout the process, Feng was surprised to learn that a lot of her American peers also struggled with writer’s block. That was when she chose to shed her deer mask and started interacting with viewers.

“Dear Deer is about saying, I can help you tell your story,” Feng said. “You just need to feel and capture the moment.”


Although technically an art installation, Dear Deer ended up being a social experiment. Feng said she learned about human nature from reading people’s word choices.

“You can observe how people use language to join a community,” she says.

Often times, similarities or differences in word choices could be explained by particular social groups or demographics that individuals belonged to.

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