We had the good fortune of connecting with Mengxi Yang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mengxi, how do you think about risk?
I think risk taking doesn’t mean that one should not have a comfort zone, and I have a lot of respect for creatures of habit. In fact it is when someone with a clear comfort area decides to go out of it that makes it all the more meaningful. For me, China is my entire childhood, and leaving home to United States for college was the first big moment of risking taking. I had to start fresh in many ways, and it motivates me everyday to observe, absorb and adapt to new things. That feeling never left me since then. In my animation work I struggle to stay in a well-defined genre, and I fell in love with the idea of hybridity. My recent film is a documentary animation done with stop motion and digital collage. It was a challenge to construct, but when I found a way to do it, it became a very unique creation, and that process was extremely satisfying and liberating.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m an experimental animator originally from Nanjing, China. I was always interested in visual art as a kid, and later found love in animation in college. In my program I learned that animation is so much more than what mass media produces. It is an art form with a lot of potential. I tried many different animation techniques and had a hard time deciding what kind of animation I will make while making all kinds of experiments. I now focus mainly on stop motion, which can incorporate other methods and create endless amazing effects.
In my work I’m interested in talking about the absurdity of mundane life and the pattern of living we make and break. As an animator I like to look at objects and people’s relationship with them, how they create movement. I use object animation and stop motion a lot because I believe anything can be animated. I’m especially curious about exploring the domestic environment, where so much human activities are documented in a space dense with private emotions and memories. Stories underneath seemingly normal daily life never cease to amaze me.
To me, and probably to many other filmmakers, the biggest challenge is to finish a film. I get ideas quickly and like to start new projects. But making independent animation film is often a very solitary and length process. What I’ve learned is to constantly talk to my friends or mentors about it. It’s more of a refreshing thing than getting critiques. I also try to do other kinds of creative side projects along with making my films, like illustration and comics, to stay active. Recently I’m really inspired by Yoko Ogawa’s writing.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Griffith Park and Sunset Boulevard are the obvious first stops. Then I will take them on walks around Sliver Lake to look at the city and fancy houses from some of the hilltops. There is the Museum of Jurassic Technologies that can’t be missed for a half day trip, end at its roof top with a cup of tea. The Long Beach is long and we can spend a lot of time exploring the Aquarium of the Pacific too.
The food chapter will be really fun, because Los Angeles maybe has the best variety of authentic Asian food in the west coast. If they are craving an old fashion northern Chinese breakfast, I will take them to Fortune No.1 in San Gabriel Valley to get Bao and dumplings. If they want Korean specialty Tofu with pork and kimchi I can take them to Kobawoo House in Korea Town, and then go to WeSpa for a relaxing hot bath in the afternoon. And if they are thinking of Japanese food I would recommend going to Daichan in the San Fernando Valley to sit around walls of Japanese folk art and order an eel bowl.
Finally I would definitely drive them home at night through my favorite part of highway 134 near Eagle Rock to look at the city lights.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are many to thank for the help I got in the past year. I should thank my friends and peers from school who keeps me motivated to work, and connected with their creative minds. I’m also especially inspired by and thankful to my partner Rob Rice, who got stuck with me in the pandemic but stayed as the most solid support. It would have been very difficult without you, so thank you!