Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance. To the degree that performance attempts to enter the economy of reproduction, it betrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology.

—— Peggy Phelan


In the eyes of a performance fundamentalist like Phelan, once this medium degrades to the object of reproduction of images would be fully degenerate. Behind this, one would likely find its supporting position of “dematerialization,” advocated by the second avant-garde art movement.  Where the medium is isomorphic to capitalism – only that such ideology seems somewhat flimsy before the realities of a new medium. Since the 1960s, performance became integral to media art, in the swings of live experience and reproduction, presentation and representation, we come to realize that what was once referred to as the classic “performance art”  often preserved in a mediated form. Video art is undoubtedly one of the critical loops. Recorded performance or performance videos derived into many complicated forms, the interactions between the body and technological media bring together two different types of discourse, where the organic and the artificial, the immediate and the documentary, the flesh and the screen generate unavoidable friction and integration. These are the points of departure for this exhibition.

What “Embodied Mirror” attempts to explore is the intimate exchange between video art and performance in the history of Chinese contemporary art. At its inception, video art in China was integral to performance art. With time passing through the camera lens, Zhang Peili’s 30 x 30 (1988) allowed the viewer to observe the body objectively, from which to arrive at the impact of its metaphorical effects. Thereon, in the development of video art in China, many artists have adopted strategic approaches to extend the mediums of video art and performance for one another. This exhibition presents five themes, “Autobiography,” “Event,” “Dancer,” “Speaker,” and “Theater.” Each topic will address an independent clue in combing through the diverse and complex phenomenon of this overlapping domain.

“Embodied Mirror” points to the fact that video art does not necessarily provide the “stage” for performance, but a “mirror” or “exit” to access the world. It does not necessarily emancipate the body or to isolate it from the confines of social and historical discourses, but provides new strategic device or decoder. Where the body becomes the embodiment of “eternity” and “transmission” in the context of moving image, and the medium becomes a new scenario of life. At the same time, the subject’s response to reality translates into a shared media sensibility.



Li Ran, Mont Sainte-Victoire, Video, Color, Sound,Live performance & Video Installation, 34′36′′, 2012

Mont Sainte-Victoire is a mountain located in South France, which artist Paul Cezanne had a full view of from his studio.  During Cezanne’s lifetime, he had painted dozens of paintings depicting this mountain. Li Ran uses the mountain’s name as the exhibition title, trying to construct his own entry point into this modernist aesthetic, whilst re-viewing fragmented experiences that are grounded in our own history. Li Ran has compiled a four-part statement comprising of the themes: Reflection of Images and Scenes, Gaze, Competition and Encounter. During the exhibition opening, a live performance took place with the artist mimicking voice-over styles from 1970s-1980s’ Chinese dubbed movies. The performance is accompanied with a display of three automatically timed projectors exhibiting a continuous loop of more than 200 photographic slides. The images of these slides feature ‘image extracts’ culled from the artist’s own aesthetic experiences of modern historical images of the ‘west’ found in textbooks and art history.

Tao Hui, Talk About Body, Video, Color, Sound, 3′45′′, 2013

The artist addressed in her own room, acting as an Islamic girl. She toke the article which was written by a physical anthropologist analyzing his own body as the chief source. He analyzes the body structure,,physiognomy characteristic and blood lineage gene objectively in detail and fabricates a ceremony scene according to the authentic materials. He attempts to abandon emotion and focus on his own body, resist the over-spiritual confinement by traditional religion and try to make a balance between them. “I give up all of my prejudice and create my body by natural facts.

Cao Fei , Chain Reaction, 2000, Video, Color, Sound, 5′25′′, 2000

Chain Reaction is a kind of independent thinking itself. Since everyone has his or her own experience and values, I call the world of Chain Reaction “a view of schizophrenia”. Most of the images of the video surpass, as well as imitate daily life experience absurdly. The film is to analyze and oppose evil by the way of using the power of evil inside human nature. Chain Reaction is an allegory of evil but without the function of salvation like the other allegories.

Payen Zhu, Each Is a Corporate and Each Is a Product, Video, Color, Sound 12’17”, 2015

Wuhan Ecological Art Park is a place frequented by an illegal pyramid scheme organization. The salesperson would lead a tour and give random meanings to the public sculptures in order to persuade the public to join their organization. The artist interrupted the tour with similarly or even more absurd acts, such as talking to a bronze figure. The salesperson was freaked out by Zhu’s performance and left. Zhu then took over and told a story to the crowd about the battles between the real estate and East Lake, rise of central China, Capitalism, and the desire for success.

LI BINYUAN, Freedom Farming, Video, Color, Sound, 10’54”, 2009

In the countryside of China, land is a heavy issue. In 1999, when my father passed away in an accident, the land that he had cultivated was handed down to me. I was at a loss, and avoided returning to my hometown. But the problem was not solved because of my detachment, and my sense of identity gradually disappeared. In 2014, I decided to use one of the plots of land to produce a work, to re-examine my relationship to my birthplace, which felt both strange and amiable. Finally, I made my peace through the fatigue that came from the constant falls into the field and the mud.for 2 hours. The name of the work, Freedom Farming, comes from the land certificate issued by the village committee, and from the sense of salvation that came from the performative act itself. ‘Freedom Farming’ is a work about the dialogue between me and my father, and my present reality. I attempt to find a balance between the three, or save some things that are already lost through this behavior; also I want to confirm my sense of identity, of belonging, via this path.

Yao Qingmei, Sanzu Ding and its patterns 2 — Hypotheses on the origin of the hammer-sickle sign: Shamanism, Video, Color, Sound, 11’50”, 2013–present

In 2013, during the construction operation in Longmen county of Yangshao area, Henan, workers unexpectedly discovered a red pottery tripod (“ding”). The vortex pattern on the vessel bears similarity with the modern “hammer and sickle” motif used to represent New China. According to the C-14 dating, the tripod excavated in Longmen has a five-thousand-year history. Chinese archaeologists have named its mysterious pattern the “hammer and sickle”. On the basis of archaeology, anthropology, psychoanalysis, semantics, semiotics and mythology, Professor Yao focuses her research on the origin and development of the “hammer and sickle” motif, concerning which she proposes six hypotheses with scientific significance.

Tang Dixin, Reed, Video, Color, Sound, 10’17”, 2019

As much as Tang Dixin’s video may give the impression of a documentary film, once the work begins to reel, one quickly realizes the necessity for adopting a fictional perspective. A young Chinese Tang, who met a young Japanese Nan and convinced him to be buried in a hole among the reeds. This process seemed like two lonely strangers coincidentally met and played a game together, a unique encounter that could not have be repeated. Tang Dixin has an acute ability to grasp theatricality in a contemporary sense–the unusual, illogical and arbitrary encounters of strangers in an unfamiliar environment. The tacit understanding the two men have achieved is final, which neither has a past or a future, nor influenced by any conditions, but in the scenes constructed by these moving images here and now.

Ma Qiusha, An Incident of Love, Video, Color, Sound, 1’12”, 2004

An overlapping time
1981 10 28 1982 3 23 1982 10 28 1983 3 23 1983 10 28 1984 3 23 1984 10 28 1985 3 23 1985 10 28 1986 3 23 1986 10 28 1987 3 23 1987 10 28 1988 3 23 1988 10 28 1989 3 23 1989 10 28 1990 3 23 1990 10 28 1991 3 23 1991 10 28 1992 3 23 1992 10 28 1993 3 23 1993 10 28 1994 3 23 1994 10 28 1995 3 23 1995 10 28 1996 3 23 1996 10 28 1997 3 23 1997 10 28 1998 3 23 1998 10 28 1999 3 23 1999 10 28 2000 3 23 2000 10 28 2001 3 23 2001 10 28 2002 3 23 2002 10 28 2003 3 23 2003 10 28 2004 3 23 2004 10 28

Yan Xing, Arty, Super-Arty, Single channel HD video (b/w, silent, loop), 9’16”, 2013

This work is based on works by Edward Hopper (1882–1967). Using a “realist” scene constructed by Hopper as a prototype, seven original works are intertwined with past works by the artist. The “reality of art” re-interprets the “super-arty” world. The whole mime is interspersed with the artist’s expressions concerning “arty” and “super-arty”. All of the features that appear in this work point to an exploration of “art” itself. One could say that without the artist’s misinterpretation of “art”, there would certainly be no better definition of “Super-Arty”.

Kan Xuan, Kanxuan Ai! Video, Color, Sound, 1’22”, 1999

The location is the underground passage of the Fuxingmen subway in Beijing, a public space from one platform to another.I ran through the crowd and shouted my name and answered. It was as if I were calling myself and answering myself; It’s like I’m imitating others calling myself or I’m imitating myself in answering. I’m interested that when the spatial relationship between the caller and the responder becomes blurred, the form and result of being recognized by oneself or by others. What I shouted was “Kan Xuan! Ai!”

Zhao Zhao, Rain, Video, Color, Sound, 15’35”, 2012

Rain was filmed during the flooding that occurred in Beijing on July 21, 2012, one of the worst in living memory and one of many that occurred throughout China during that year. There is a chronic shortage of water in Beijing but in just a few hours, the city received six to seven inches of rain, and nearby mountain regions experienced flash flooding and landslides, leading to mass evacuations and numerous deaths. Wanting to be more than a bystander, Zhao Zhao found an inflatable mattress, which he used as an improvised vessel to float around under the Guangqumen Overpass, which saw some of the most drastic flooding. He also documented the flooded city with a video camera.

Zhang Qing, Taxi Samba, Video, Color, Sound, 6’00”, Nanjing (2003) / Germany (2005)

Back in 2003, ZHANG Qing performed Taxi Samba for the very first time in Re-turn NatureII: Pastoral in Nanjing, where ten taxies were designed to wait on two lines like ballroom dancing. Accompanied by sharp noise, they started and braked violently to dance a “taxi samba” when viewers were allowed to experi-ence hazard within safety distance as they walked among the thrilling and overwhelming performance.

Chen Xiaoyun, Drag, Video, Color, Sound, 4’11”, 2006

Half naked young man is dragging vehemently. The mysterious power is inside the door: harvest in darkness and extreme tiredness of heart and body is endless. You can’t let all this go.The invisible power that you are attempting to oppose or compete is in the other end of the rope but which controls you. You don’t know what you are going to lose or gain. There is no result about the darkness. You probably know nothing. Regarding to life, you have to stay here.

Lin Yilin, Golden Journey, Video, Color, Sound, 16’40”, 2011

I considered this series of work as a diary of a journey, in which accidental encounters and interesting happenings unfolded. At the same time, “events” were produced. Landmarks are the witness of the journey. I worked hard to make this series of work into “landmarks” of the landmarks so the audience can remember them.
The geographic environment stimulated me to test out the most basic physical movements of my body—”self-rotating,” or more precisely, rolling. This imagery came from the tiresof an automobile’s wheels. The slow walk of the participants required an enduring self- consciousness that made their brains numb. Their awareness of the distinction between themselves and the other pedestrians evoked a paradoxical state of mind. But what is more, they were also thinking about me rolling behind them. When I walked on the Golden Gate Bridge, I looked down to the fascinating ocean. But reason prevented me from jumping. Then, I decided to slowly roll down the bridge on the pavement. Fighter planes repetitively flew over my head. I became aware that they were supervising me. At the end, the U.S. Navy understood: This was art. Then they did not come back to disturb us any more. Luckily, they became the greatest audience of my work.

Hu Xiangqian, Xiang Qian Museum, Video, Color, Sound, 14’31”, 2010

Xiang Qian Museum is an ongoing collection of artworks that exists in Hu Xiangqian’s mind. According to the artist, a museum collection is usually a collection of materials – the physical existence of artworks, while the collection at Xiang Qian Museum is represented through the artist’s body and conveyed to the audience–Xiang Qian Museum is non-materialistic. Hu believes art exists through his performance without physical form, as he said: “I think the best thing about art is that we are able to carry it around to wherever we go.”

Wang Jianwei, Dilemma – Three Way Fork in the Road, Video, Color, Sound, 10’00”, 2007

I want to try to build such a “stage”, where all the individual performers have multiple aspects, including the visible and the invisible, the real and the hypothetical. These bodies are at the same time physical proofs of the real world and symbols that connect all kinds of desires. They are signs of a certain period of history but also void of any specific historical meaning.
Do they exist between imagination and ambiguity? They maintain a relative synchronization within different orders; they are introspective presences in public space; they share the same space but ignore each other. This is a stage filled with normality and abnormality. It is my experiment with video, and my understanding of the world that I live in.



嘉宾:葛宇路 / 艺术家,黄典林 / 媒介学者,陶辉 / 艺术家,童文敏 / 艺术家,张涵露 / 策展人
主持人:杨北辰 / 策展人





Remapping Reality—Selected Video Collection from Wang Bing

Curators: Sun Dongdong, Lu Mingjun
Artists: Cao Fei, Chen Zhou, Guan Xiao, He Xiangyu, Hu Xiangqian, Huang Ran, Li Ming, Li Ran, Lin Ke, Liu Chuang, Ma Qiusha, Miao Ying, Shen Xin, Tang Dixin, Tao Hui, Wang Tuo, Xu Qu, Yan Xing, Zhou Tao
Venue: OCAT Shanghai
Organizer: OCAT Shanghai, New Century Art Foundation (NCAF)

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