Hello world, betray me please is a reconstructed film base on five video-record performance art. Unfold around the relationship between courier riders and courier app-development programmers, the riders’ working status are presented, the violence between system designers and users are represented. Laborers nowadays still have to give respond to certain “traditional” issues in spite of the ever changing labor modes in digital age. Issues that knot their lives tightly fastened and unbreakable like a living curse.
Born in Shaoyang, Hunan, 1994. Currently live and works in Beijing. Focus on the appearance of personal emotions on society issues. Works major on performance art, and expressions are more rely on physical body in a sensitive way.
Go! To the society, Wuhan
Guan Zhong Mang Ba Art Festival, Xi’an
“Temperature” – immersion experience art exhibition, Changsha
The 18th Shaanxi Photography Art Exhibition, Xi’an
Born in Xi’an, Shanxi province, 1993. Major in School of Experimental Art in the Central Academy on Fine Arts. Focus on the issues encountered by workers in society, and represent their concerns through performance art.
Balcony of the brave, Beijing
Go! To the society, Wuhan
Researcher Zhang Yuan (ZY) in conversation with Artists Jiang Keqi & Zhao Hua (J&Z)
ZY: Did the idea of the film come before or after the five performance works?
J&Z: The five completely independent performance works came first. “Actions” or “human activities” were the main line of expression for us to dive into the work. We used some simple camera language when we shot the individual acts, keeping with performance art as our essential way to think about the work.
ZY: Although I did not discover “performance art” in this work, nor the body of the artist, have you adopted the roles of the author or director of the moving images?
J&Z: These five independent works were the originals, and the edited version emphasizes the moving images we designed according to our own experience. “Directing” for me is a way to observe through the camera. Specifically, we only filmed the footage without directing anything because it was unnecessary for us to intervene in the scenes. Perception and understanding are essential, and if the latter can be conveyed effortlessly would be a powerful ability. At this moment, we are not there yet. But I realize that it is an active observation.
ZY: Can you tell us a little about how you work with these five delivery men? How did you meet, choose and communicate with them? What do they think about the work, etc?
J&Z: There are a lot of offline takeaway events. We went to many of them, and you’d have something to say to each other if you are curious. After two months of shooting White Paper, we slowly got to know each other, and part of the work also included their opinions. Of course, the work is related to problems and oppression, but people can’t always talk about it when they meet; they find it interesting and not disturbing to their lives. They think that the bumper car scene is similar to large corporations’ battle for industry newbies, and after that, they’d advise their new hires, “We wouldn’t dare to do that on the road.” Our starting point is simply to complete the safe collision. To find the right person in a set-up situation, their competitive streaks were not highlighted, on the contrary, at least that’s how they perceived the experience.
ZY: Do you have any experience in running takeaways or being programmers?
J&Z: No, we like to keep a certain distance from the creation, which provides a parallax view. But I was on the bike for more than 600 kilometers to shoot this work, so I still understand how they feel and work. The programmer piece draws entirely from talking to a programmer friend, my partner works in e-commerce, and she also provides a lot of experience.
ZY: The work moves forward with audible and pictorial logic, and there are a few places where language is used, which does not generate a plot narrative. Can you talk about your use of language?
J&Z: Language is particularly challenging. We didn’t use language in this work because we don’t think it can be used well. In other words, we believe the performance suffice to express the ideas clearly. The audible component is simultaneous to the performance. There are a few incidents of re-edited sound as cues for advancement, such as the sound of flute and motorcycles bumping together. Someone was practicing the flute next to the filming location, which was recorded the next day.
ZY: This work discusses labor issues in the digital age. Other than the conspicuous take-out overalls that identify them, there is hardly any “digital” atmosphere in this work, and the figures seem to have little to do with the digital age.
J&Z: We are keen on using the body as a medium of expression to convey the working condition and problems encountered. For example, the blank paper is a contract that keeps getting bigger and bigger, an ongoing issue that has never been adequately solved; and the de-ethical programming behind the computer, the mutual tug of war, and harm between the delivery man and the programmer are new problems. People’s circumstances and situations are invisible in the digital environment; their new relationship can only be expressed by conversion or focusing on the “people” themselves; hence, the medium determines the scope and quality of expression.
ZY: The section where the delivery man ties up the programmer with wires is quite theatrical, which is different from other passages. Could you elaborate on this part of the work?
J&Z: In 2020-2021, we participated in many discussions on the takeaway workers. At one meeting, a programmer stood up and said, “I sometimes wonder if, as a programmer, should I make ethical judgments about these [takeaway guys] things when I’m writing the program?” This is the very question we are curious about, the relationship between the designer and the user, like two grasshoppers bound on the same string, through the same service industry. This relationship is invisible but real. So we created this fictional story and performed it in a way similar to “theater” to enact this relationship and provide a unique perspective to complement the role of “production” at the bottom end of the whole work chain. This work is individually titled “Target Disassembly,” a kind of workflow in large corporations, and in English, it’s referred to as “all in the same boat.”
ZY: Tell us about the idea behind the work’s title.
J&Z: “Hello world” is the world’s first string of codes, which also appears on the clothes worn by the programmers in the film. We both thought for a long time to find suitable words to express the second half of the sentence, “please betray me.” Some friends advised us that the data platform seems to be an efficient and orderly way of working, relying on the delivery man and programmers’ close cooperation to complete without any contact. Both ends are constantly worn down, where patience runs out, and each, in the end, pays a cruel price.
Zhang Yuan is an independent curator, writer and translator in contemporary performing arts. He co-curated 2020: Twenty Years Towards a World Theatre at OCAT Shenzhen with archived contemporary performance in mainland China through the past 20 years. From 2017 to 2021, he worked as performing arts curator in Ming Contemporary Art Museum (McaM Shanghai) during which he curated various performance projects and initiated international co-productions with festivals and institutions. ZHANG Yuan is currently participating the research residency on contemporary performing arts at Esplanade－Theatres on the Bay.