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Forbidden City

Jianai Jenny Chen

Jianai Jenny Chen is a senior at New York University studying English Literature and Cinema Studies. Born in China and raised in the U.S., she has spent has her life moving back and forth between the two. She has worked for the China Central Television Station (CCTV) popular documentary series “Exploring” in Beijing, and was in-house photographer and publicity assistant at powerHouse Books/Arena and the New York Photo Festival in Brooklyn, New York.

We are fortunate to have her discuss her contribution to “Delayed Gratification” and her vision of art in the Digital Age.

Which work will you be exhibiting? Why did you select this piece?

I will be exhibiting my photo, Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the imperial palace in Beijing, China, sometimes also referred to as the Forbidden Palace. It was built in 1406 and took 14 years to finish. It is a beautiful 7.8 million square feet, red and gold roofed complex, and home of the emperor's enormous household. Unfortunately no one could leave or enter the city without the emperor's permission (and male servants were eunuchs). Not exactly an ideal home, but definitely intriguing.

I finally walked through the whole palace (now a museum), which took more than two hours (people traffic became the main attraction), only to find the other side of the wall, which appears in this photograph, more beautiful…talk about Delayed Gratification. Things were suddenly calm, stagnant; I could stretch and breathe, and I suddenly wanted to capture this feeling and show this tranquility in China that is rare to find in such popular areas.

What is your charity or cause? Why did you select this? Where does community work fit in with your ethos as an artist?

I choose the Pfrang Association, founded in Nanjing, China. I am proud that I was witness to the fruition of this wonderful charity, and having worked closely with it throughout grade school (since 8th grade) I learned to better appreciate the value of an education. The Pfrang Association believes that education is a gift, and that “social inequality and poor education prepare the grounds for crime”. Since 2000 they have funded comprehensive secondary school education for over 600 children living in poverty in China.


Delayed Gratification reveals the power of patience, of the change that takes place when reward is not the goal but a byproduct of success. Please talk about your ideas of Delayed Gratification. What do these words mean to you?

Life to me is a lot of waiting around. “Delayed Gratification” resonates with me so much because it reminds me of something John Stuart Mills wrote that wholly agree with. “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so”. I’ve learned not to wait around for happiness to come along. If you chase your passions in life, you will find happiness along the way. To me, the delayed part is most of the gratification, and without it, the gratification would be a bit bland.

Edition One Hundred is founded with the idea of providing artists the opportunity to transform new technology into a tool to both produce affordable art while simultaneously connecting to non-traditional art collectors. What are your thoughts on Edition One Hundred? Why did you decide to be involved? How do you see this as a platform to reach a broader audience for your work?

I love that it is web based. It reaches a broader community, and anyone anywhere can see it. I have so many loved ones all over the world that this is a perfect way to reach out to them and share in what's going on with my life. At the same time, they can get involved in a bigger, out of the box way of thinking and processing media and communication—engaging in art. I also like to indulge in voyeuristic tendencies - looking at an artist's work online and having my own reactions, without them being able to see it is exciting. I feel completely in control. I don't feel pretentious like how some galleries can make one feel.

What are your thoughts on Art in the Digital Age?

EYE CANDY OVERLOAD! You can see anything, from anywhere, anytime. I love starting the day going through my favorite blogs and websites, looking for beautiful things that I've never seen before in ways I've never thought possible even, and stalking the outside world in general. It calms my travel addiction nerves for the time being.

As an artist, you regularly produce work that is a manifestation of your distinctive vision. Yet at the same time you are influenced by the work of others. Do you collect art? If so, who do you collect? And if you had all the money in the world, who would you buy and why?

If I had all the money in the world I would buy all my favorite pieces from my artist friends—I want to support them, and of course they're amazing, so why not make what beauty I find in the world personal?

Why should people buy art?

People may think art is an addition to one's life, but it should be a necessity. Art inspires you to pursue your own passions and find your own happiness.





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