The life of the universe is composed of many subtle moments, which involve the complex, rich, contradictory, balanced and ambiguous perceptual contacts.
In my 2011 single-channel video Twilight Is the Ashes of Dusk, I focused on the lanterns on Chang’an Street in the night and the situation under its cover. At this moment, there is no specific description of an object, a person or an event in this political space. There is not even any clear scene. After the street lamps go out in an instant, the city in the dark slowly appears. It is as white as the ashes after the burning something. The street light going off indicates a new day, the beginning and hope of urban life, and what we see through the lens is another hint.
The continuous creation related to this can be seen in my latest solo exhibition “White Night” (2019) — Yosemite is composed of two parts: a blown-up photograph of a highway that takes up a whole wall with a yellow LED screen on top of it. The content of the LED screen is extracted from the chapter “Notes on the Ship” of Claude Levi-Strauss’ Tristes Tropiques. This is not so much a literal description of sunset and sunrise – that is, dawn and dusk, but rather a delicate and extreme dynamic image out of the artist’s brush strokes. It is the most delicate and charming image I have ever seen. I’ve always been very interested in such moments. In Twilight Is the Ashes of Dusk, I tried to use the camera to capture a minute before and after the dawn sun on Chang’an Street slides to the horizon. In my opinion, it is both completely abstract and absolutely concrete; at the same time, it contains all the situations that can be monitored, as well as the endless untold statements.
Twilight is the Ashes of Dusk, 2011, video, 3 minutes 15 seconds. Courtesy of the artist and Beijing Commune.
Everyday Holiday Squad (aka Side Core) is a Japanese art collective formed in 2015 whose members include graffiti artists, curators and filmmakers. Their projects contravene categorization as they occupy a creative zone born from the intersection of installation art, public spaces and street culture.
Rode Work continues in this vein by documenting the creation of a pop-up skatepark disguised as a nighttime construction site in Ishinomaki, Japan. The project was unveiled at Reborn Art Festival in 2017, which was launched to revive the city and its people after the devastation of the largest recorded earthquake in Japan’s history.
In this film, a panoply of flashing lights and hazard signs alert drivers to the skate park, which was erected on an industrial estate damaged in the earthquake. As a pair of skaters dressed in high-visibility jerseys grind a half pipe, there is a soft message about creativity being born from destruction. Additionally, the visual pun in this film comes into its own; the discrepancy between the prohibited status of skateboarding in public areas in Japan and its upcoming debut as a competitive sport in the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Rode Work demonstrates the tacit relationship between street culture and urban renewal by foregrounding the importance of self-expression in urban spaces. As the skaters oscillate in full view of the public, Everyday Holiday Squad reminds audiences about the role art initiatives have had in helping Ishinomaki emerge from the shadow of a catastrophe.
Rode Work, 2017, video, colour, sound, 2 minutes 42 seconds. Courtesy of the artist.
Wang Tuo often collapses diverse times and places into his films. Lately, he initiated his new film series project in the Northeast of China, from which was born the first one Smoke and Fire (2018). One of the main themes in this work is the artist’s reinterpretation of the juridical case of the recent “Zhang Koukou’s revenge killing”, which carried out methodically to three men that had been involved in the death of his mother 22 years ago. For the artist, the urge for vengeance resonates with a complex understanding of the reality of northeastern China has its structural condition, that such an action actually penetrates to various historical moments of the similar deed, and that each act accompanies a series of complex psychological activities. We may see it as personalized rites of becoming a murderer.
In Smoke and Fire, Wang Tuo portrays the image of a migrant worker who exists simultaneously in both worlds of a two-part intertwined reality. In one world, this migrant worker is in a warehouse of movie props with an extremely vague sense of time and space. By reading tales of the miraculous and the legendary from antiquity to the early 20th century, he is projecting himself into multiple texts, “practising” it again and again. In the other world, the artist is conducting a sample observation of this migrant worker in a small town in Northeast China — recording his daily life, his emotions, and his journey back home. The documentation has slowly turned into a dramatic “rehearsal” of a recent violent incident in China that has been widely discussed. In this narrative on revenge, healing the deep-seated wound seems to have become a ritual that needs to wait. Through these embodied corporeal “counterattacks”, the artist implies a rupture between social and internal identities, as well as the latent contradiction between the individual trauma and the monstrous yet powerless reality.
Smoke and Fire, 2018, single channel 4K video, colour, sound, 31 minutes 18 seconds. Courtesy of the artist.
Actor Dong Ming
Cinematographer Li Hang’an
Photographer Li Hang’an Hou Xiaohang
Composer Li Zong
Production Assistant Zhang Baojian He Yinhan
Colorist Xu Deya
Camera Operator Zhang Jingxiong
The first Taiwanese conjoined twins underwent separation surgery in 1979 and the whole procedure was broadcast on TV. During that period, Taiwan was under martial law. In this way, this surgery was often interpreted as a metaphor for the relationship between Taiwan and China.
Back in 1979, in order to prepare for the separation surgery, the hospital invited an artist to make a cast of the conjoined twins. The attempt to make a cast was however unsuccessful, since it was difficult to control the babies during the moulding process. In this project Single Copy, I have re-casted the body of the now 43-year old Chang Chung-I, and also use 3D scanning technology to archive his body. The data from the archive are then used as sources for capturing memories from Chang’s earlier life.
When Chang was 21 years old, he played a role in the movie, Falling Up Waking Down (1997), portraying a teashop owner whose shop was inside a converted old bus. About two decades later, Chang has repeatedly thought about what it would be like to run that old bus-converted teashop. In real life, Chang is married with two kids, and this artwork overlaps his present life with the fictional setting.
Single Copy, 2019, single channel video, 21 minutes 16 seconds. Courtesy of the artist and Vanguard Gallery.
Screen Writer Chen Wan-Yin
Actor Chang Chung-I
Mold Casting BICO STUDIO
3D Scanning SOLID MEMORY
Cinematographer Chen Kuan-Yu
Drone Operator Ye Ping-Xin
Gaffer Cheng Te-Shou
Best Boy Liao Jhu-Wei Jiang Guan-Sheng
Colorist Chiang Wei
3D Compositing Hsu Lien-Chieh
Deep in the Forking Tanks the video work has artist Kim Heecheon meeting with divers and venturing down deep into the water. Before entering the water, he goes into a flotation tank to experience a simulated dive. Also known as a “sensory deprivation tank,” it literally enables to cut off sense of sight, hearing, and smell. Inside one of these tanks, a person loses the sensations of their body and is capable of focusing fully on their mind. But as the training goes on, one starts to become confused at whether they are in a simulation or actually diving. While they are being drawn into a state in which their consciousness of physical reality is unclear, another sensory stimulation from the tank itself gains momentum. The “tank” here constitutes a frame that can blur the boundaries between the real and unreal perceptions, and at the same time accentuate those boundaries.
Kim Heecheon is curious about the process through which human cognition changes as a result of the invention of new devices and tools. Kim develops concrete hypotheses to surmise them in various ways. As he constructs his narratives in the video medium, Kim Heecheon applies his hypotheses and submits them to a testing process. First, he records an actual situation with documentary-like footage. This record is used as the “actual” material to support his hypothesis. The artist actively applies digital technology to his footage—GPS, VR, face swapping, games, and so forth. In his artistic practice, these digital applications are one of his primary visual rhetorics and serve as media to stimulate different perceptions of reality. Through these methods, Kim presents us with an unusual situation in which no distinction are drawn between the virtual perceptions and reality that human beings are conscious of—where the boundaries between them disappear and reappear. Observing how developments in technology have resulted in technology becoming an invisible presence, he recognizes that this phenomenon is taking place at a far faster rate than human beings are able to calculate. He uses ostensibly “futuristic” digital technology and images to produce his artwork, but the “future” narrative he presents is a departure from our ordinary expectations when we imagine the future.
For human beings, cognition and consciousness can be as realistic as physical states. We sometimes experience how a perception can become immense that it blurs our awareness of the reality that surrounds us. There are moments when theories and concepts of reality lose all meaning, when all that matters is the state we are perceiving. Historical time does not apply to the temporality of such moments, which can proceed toward any point at any speed. Kim Heecheon’s narratives unfold according to this temporality. Some people may perceive the temporality within Kim Heecheon’s nimbly unfolding narratives as akin to a new experience—but it is actually similar to enter an incisive realistic device, like a lens offering an omniscient perspective on the human being inside of the “tank” as another temporal world without realizing it. As something all of us living in these times have arrived at ourselves, this odd temporality is utterly realistic.
Deep in the Forking Tanks, 2019, single channel video, HD (16:9), stereo, 43mins. Commissioned and produced by Art Sonje Center. Supported by Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture. Courtesy of the artist.
Production Manager (Korea) Hong Minhee
Production Manager (Mexico) Carlos Alberto Solares
Film Crew Kim Heecheon Elizabeth Bip
Underwater Cinematography Song Yeoreum
3D Modelling Jeon Hyeok
Motion Capture Assistant Park Jinsung
Sound Designer Choi Jiyoung
“Cult” Soundtrack Min Sungsig
Cas, Bip, Paulina, Hassy, Emmanuel, Dianne, Lalo, Isa, Karla, Allan, Xander, Alejandro, Ruben, Vianney, Orlando, Axel, Alex
An exhausted delivery rider sprawled on the bench of a roadside park and fell asleep safe and sound. In the dream composed of a long take, laborers gathered together in a Shanzhai park in the desert where dynamic riders became static “statues,” forming a contrast with the speed and efficiency they pursued inexhaustibly around the clock. The all-star lineup of contemporary laborers revealed the other side of the Chinese economic miracle: an increasingly homogeneous urban life infused with technology and capital as well as new kinds of labor and social exploitation — perpetual mobility with speed and labor without rest. Sleep has become a costly risk for these mobile people. In surreal and extremely realistic dreams, the artist made an attempt to capture the elements of fatigue and anxiety in this era — ceaseless mobility day-to-day is frozen in the virtual world, while unremembered faces in real life deserve close-ups in imaginary dreams.
Dream Delivery, 2018, Single channel 4K Video (4096 × 1728), 2.35:1, Color, Sound, 9 minutes 50 seconds.
Camera Chen Xiaomeng Da Bing Ma Yongzhe
Sound Zhang Zhiyuan
Concept, editing and directing Zheng Yuan
Same Old, Brand New is a work by Cao Fei that references video games, primarily from the 1980s, which have become an integral part of popular and youth culture in Hong Kong and across the world. With this video installation, Cao Fei attempts to turn collective memories into a current reality.
The work follows Cao Fei’s previous multi-media projects that explore the dreams and aspirations of a younger Chinese generation and their strategies for overcoming and escaping reality. Cao Fei mixes social commentary, popular aesthetics, references to Surrealism and a documentary approach to reflect on the rapid and chaotic changes that are occurring in Chinese society today.
Visible from numerous locations across Hong Kong, including the HKCEC, Same Old, Brand New could be witnessed by people all over the city.
Same Old, Brand New was presented during the 2015 edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong. Each night from March 13 to 17, 2015, Same Old, Brand New was shown across the entire façade of Hong Kong’s iconic 490 meter high International Commerce Centre (ICC) on the Kowloon harbour front.
Same Old, Brand New, 2015, sound and large-scale led screens, 5 mins, size variable. Sound by artist Dickson Dee. Co-commissioned by Art Basel and the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong.
Cao Fei, Nova, 2019. Courtesy of the artist, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers
If the bitterness of life could fade from our memory, how hard it would be for happiness to do the same? Take it easy, take it simple and happy, we don’t have to take burden. Nothing is important any more. All that people need is to form a whole, to dance without care and catch the eternity of happiness in a twinkling.
Hip Hop: Guangzhou, 2003, single channel video, 3 minutes 28 seconds, 5:4, colour with sound. Courtesy of the artist, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers.