Opening Reception for Cry Joy Park-Gardens of Dark and Light

May 16, 2019 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
Simons Center for the Arts
161 Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29401
Opening Reception for Cry Joy Park-Gardens of Dark and Light @ Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art | Charleston | South Carolina | United States

Beginning at 6:30PM, join the Halsey Institute staff, interns, and Advisory Board to celebrate the opening of our solo exhibition of Jennifer Wen Ma’s site-specific installation, Cry Joy Park-Gardens of Dark and Light! This event is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

During the opening reception, Ma will be performing a ritual honoring spirituality and the passage of life and death. A host of religions have played important roles in Charleston’s history. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and African spirituality have all been great sources of strength and support for the people of Charleston, but they have also been pacifying forces against change. In the Garden where the Flower Portal presides between the Dark and the Light, religious rites are channeled in guiding the people through this most important passage from life to death.

Cry Joy Park-Gardens of Dark and Light is an investigation into the construct of a utopia, inspired by the history of Charleston, South Carolina: a cultural and artistic capital of the American South, and an exemplar of its opulence and beauty. This installation aims to present both an alluring, gorgeous and otherworldly garden, and its darker counterpart. The worlds created by the exhibition are a juxtaposition of utopia and dystopia and are presented via an immersive multisensory experience that utilizes various forms of communication to convey its message.

The installation will feature two separate gardens: a Dark one and a Light one, both representing a yin/yang balance between utopias and dystopias. Her exhibition will also feature collaborations with the School of the Arts at the College of Charleston, which will take the form of interdisciplinary performances by students in the visual arts, theatre, dance, music, creative writing, and more. Ma is also planning a series of community dinners that will serve as platforms to discuss specific issues facing Charleston, such as social justice and gentrification.


Jennifer Wen Ma (b. 1973, Beijing) moved to the United States in 1986 and graduated with an MFA in 1999 from Pratt Institute. Her practice draws together elements and cultural references in sensitive and unexpected ways, bridging such diverse media as installation, drawing, video, public art, design, performance, and theater. Ma was one of seven members of the core creative team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony and received an Emmy for the US broadcast. Since then, she has increasingly delved into the material and philosophical qualities of the Chinese ink tradition.

Ma’s work has been shown around the world, including the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; National Art Museum of China, Beijing; the Guggenheim Museum, New York and Bilbao; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Her installation opera Paradise Interrupted was performed at Spoleto Festival USA in 2015, New York’s Lincoln Center Festival and Singapore International Festival of Art in 2016, National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts and Taipei National Theatre and Concert Hall in 2018, as it continues with an Asian tour.

Jennifer Wen Ma’s website is