Slime is a short film made up of related online video materials. The five narrative paragraphs, Spectacle, Lust, Imagination, Monster and Engine, respond to the first question at the beginning of the film: “What is a Slime?” In the film, slime not only appears as a variety of tangible things, but also symbolizes the alienation of people and things in the contemporary world.
Born in 1996 in Yulin, Guangxi province, graduated from The School of Humanities of Central Academy of Fine Arts with a bachelor’s degree, and is currently studying at the School of Experimental Art of Central Academy of Fine Arts with a master’s degree. Her works focus on the alienation of visual spectacle and material under the contemporary capitalist production mechanism, and carries out investigation and creation from the perspective of anthropology and visual culture research. Creative media include video, installation.
CAFA 2022 Graduate Graduation Exhibition, CAFA Art Museum, Beijing
Reshaping the Chinese Soul, Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai
“Post-human Turn: Cybernetics Again”, CAC Media Art Center, Shanghai
Researcher Venus Lau in conversation with Artist Wei Xiankun
Venus: There are so many objects viraling online; why did you choose Slime as your research topic?
WXK: When I first encountered Slime toys in my life, I was interested in this material, which seems susceptible to any destructive actions, and even a strange desire to rub your body into this material. My initial curiosity was how exactly this desire arose and how Slime came to be seen as a pleasure toy. Then I found out online that Slime has a surprising history, and the narrative and visual constructs seem to symbolize some of the characteristics of our time, so Slime is essentially a metaphor for my work.
Venus: In your film you broke down the term “Slime” to letter and developed them to five concepts:spectacle, lust, imagination, monster, and engine. Can you tell us how you come up with theses ideas and how they elaborate your contemplation on slime?
WXK: If you connect the first letters of these five English terms, they make up “slime,” which is a structural consideration for the film and be imagined as a literal breakdown of slime. These concepts are also my metaphor for how slime “disintegrates” and intrudes on our lives, becoming a visual landscape, an object of pleasure, and an inner aesthetic obsession, even becoming a sense of production and consumption where efficiency is paramount while satisfying the pleasure principle. The “imagination” and “monster” components are more relevant to Slime’s history and literary stories.
Venus: In your works there is quite a number of visual materials sourced from the Internet…… which I will see them as digital readymades, how did you selecti these materials in the imploding sea of images (?
WXK: It has to fit the theme and context of each chapter of my film and be suitable and visually stimulating within its narrative.
Venus: With an absence of fixed forms, slime has easily become a vehicle for many types of desires. I once searched on Taobao for slime and found that they are sometimes linked to food (especially heavily processed food /non-whole-food like taro paste, bubble tea, whipped cream, colorful candies, etc.). In addition to associations with appetite, the popularity of slime also demonstrates desires for tactility and skin thirst in the era of touch screens. How do you see the ways slime and desire are tied together?
WXK: Slime, in my view, ultimately embodies people’s expression of the atrophied desire today in refined, easy, safe, and unburdened form. Slime’s popularity seems to me to be less a reflection of desires for tactility in this era, as seen in the film’s slime simulator software that triggers the pleasure through fingers swiping on the screen. There is a paradox here about the real and the virtual, the physical and the material. Perhaps in the future, our desires will be increasingly shaped or interfered with by technological media.
Venus:Your reflections on science andmechanics,become more apparent in the second half of the film, in which you mention an”astronomical” phenomenon – star jelly – semi-translucent, grayish-white matter that usually appears after meteor showers. Star jelly ‘s earliest records can be traced back to hundreds of years ago, and until now its cause is still a mystery. Is there a reason to bring it up in your workother than their formal similarity?
WXK: The legend and phenomenon of star jelly influenced the image and plot of some slime-like monsters in American films in the mid-20th century, where the “slime” in question represents a transcendental imagination of an unknown universe, which is very different from the slime as a symbol of pleasure today. It is worth reflecting on why the visual and discursive portrayal of Slimes today is so homogeneous, flat, and low-intellectual.
Venus: In his book Saving Beauty, Byung-Chul Han states that smoothness is the characteristic of the present, and he elaborated this concepts with examples inclduing iphoens and Jeff Koons’ sculptures, which are smooth and seamless, absent of “disaster” and “pain,” and make people want to get closer and touch them. It reminds me of the “safe pleasure” that you mentioned in the film. laying” (I can’t find a better verb tto describe the interaction with this formless maetrial) with slime is a “safe pleasure,”what else do you see as a safe pleasure in the contemporary world?Do they conflict with the contentious gestures of contemporary art?
WXK: I think all of our entertainment today seeks and constantly provides some safe pleasure. Suppose the contention of contemporary art is just a gesture. In that case, it is probably “masturbatory,” which is harmless and ineffective in making any real change in life, akin to entertainment.
Venus:Slime mold (that was brought up at the end of your film) marks a recent hot biological subject that gains a lot of attention in different cultural disciplianries. It’s “brianless” but can “judge” and nativagye its way to food through its tube-like structure, and it can even “remember” those paths to food while avoiding dangers. .” Are they similar to the traits you observed in slime?
WXK: I’m not sure if the first appearance of slime as a fictional monster was inspired or influenced by the slime mold. However, concerning slime’s past roles as intelligent monsters (including Shoggoth in Cthulhu mythology), what’s interesting about slime mold is our face-to-face confrontation with the intelligence of life and where non-human consciousness comes from. Slime, perceived as a life-giving substance since ancient times, provides the root for its imagery, yet these appealing imaginations have been dispelled in today’s Slime.
Venus Lau is a curartor and writer based in Shanghai, she is currently the Art Strategic Director of Modern Media Group and Art Editor-in-Chief of Numéro Art China. Lau was formerly the artistic director of K11 Art Foundation (KAF), oversaw the Foundation’s artistic programming, providing insight on creative content building for projects, including German artist Katharina Grosse’s first solo exhibition in China, “Mumbling Mud”,; KAF’s group exhibitions “Emerald City” and “Glow Like That” in Hong Kong; and Betty Woodman: “House and Universe” at chi K11 art museum in Shanghai.
Prior to joining KAF, Lau was the artistic director of OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen, where she curated “Digging a Hole in China”, a group exhibition on the relation of art and land in China, “The Enormous Space: Cui Jie and Lee Kit” and Simon Denny’s solo project “Real Mass Entrepreneurship”. When she was the curator at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, Lau curated the “Secret Timezones Trilogy” series, which comprised solo exhibitions of Ming wong, Korakrit Arunanondchai and Haegue Yang.