“The man with the straw hat” and “the robust woman” are characters from my video project Key-Frame Extraction, which documents the monotonous motions of people situated in isolated environments. These highly repetitive movements focus our imagination onto the day-to-day ges- tures of near banality. At the same time, they can also be regarded as gestures of a rehearsal that works in preparation for future events—what potentially might arrive in a time-to-come.
Biopolitics disciplines and shapes the body of the human; the individual’s daily movements can be regarded as regulated and maintained through practice. At critical points, these gestures emerge through and as labor, bodybuilding, the routine of going to and from work. The list goes on; I would even include housework. Almost all of these originate in the regulation and disciplinary actions of and on the body.
My imagination of these daily gestures relies first and foremost on the level of the image.
The tool-holding individual, extracted from his environment, pictorially presents to us movements with neither definitive referents nor predictable outcomes. At this juncture, the posturing of these movements and its implied significance becomes dependent on the strength of the image to extend infinitely. From this perspective, these movements are analogous to a rehearsal for future events in the making.
Gestures yet to arrive relate back to the individual. I consider them gestures that are about to go out-of-hand. They originate from and as reactions to control. They emerge precisely as a feedback to that repression. This resistance, coming from the lone body, is nevertheless a most thorough form, because the individual has no collective to rely on or escape to.
Across the spectrum of movements belonging to these two peoples, I extracted one minute of key frames for each. The frozen movements in their respective degrees of difference, display gentleness, or ferocity. By using hand-painted propylene, repeated scanning, and multiple-print methods, eventually the character becomes detached from his concrete environment. What remains present is but the fragments of lonesome gestures.
Realism is now understood as but a stale aesthetic project with propagandistic proclamations and slogans. Our contemporary understandings are informed by insight into the historical question of ideology. Once the reality that we know become something else, the signi cance of realism at the level of aesthetics becomes the opposite of what it once was. Just as we have never really lived in the real conditions of socialism, this situation requires constant revision. (Translated by Zou Zhao)
Li Binyuan explores physicality, chance, play and social values through actions, film works and performances that intervene in the social fabric of everyday Chinese society. The tone of Li Binyuan: Social Behaviours is set immediately on entering the gallery space by the work: Long Jump in which Binyuan is shown leaping between two podiums on opposite sides of a road. Cars pass and stop as the artist continues his action, heightening senses of an inevitable fall and the physical tensions within the piece. The work expresses Binyuan’s physicality whilst announcing the playful behaviours of the artist and the curators. Long Jump simultaneously acts as a permeable barrier that slows the visitors’ entrance whilst proposing shortening physical and metaphorical distances between viewers and artists. The works presented exploit Binyuan’s online and ad hoc approaches to making and presenting actions as tools for physical, emotional and conceptual expressions.
Exercise projected across the corner of a wall and a sheet creates the effect of a fluid, ever changing and reinterpreted projection. This action in the work provokes sensations of intimacy, chance, playfulness and experimentation which are important to the artist.Exercise playfully exploits perspective and perception and presents the artist appearing to blow a copse of trees.
The curators and the artist have sought active participation from viewers as a means for exploring and shortening the distance between the artist and the public. A social wall where visitors are invited to leave comments and tweet allows for a topical and valid audience participation that enhances the experience of the show whilst avoiding patronising the viewer. As an artist who primarily presents work online, distance is an intriguing concept and provokes questions pertaining to online domains heighten as alleviating or exacerbating alienation, distance and social barriers. The wall has a slightly confused agenda, provoking questions relating to its necessity in a show where public engagement, social interaction and intervention are core components in the works presented. However, this contentiousness also promotes its validity and it is interesting to witness this being used in a manner that compliments the exhibiting artist.
Resonate in which Binyuan jumps every time a train travelling overhead hits a loose rail andSignal require an amount of viewing stamina in the sense that they are immersive and require time spent watching. Binyuan’s work frequently requires a viewer and in both works the artist seems intent on exploring this through subtle actions that otherwise would go unnoticed. Their repetitive nature might encourage many viewers to watch small portions of the films but their immersive quality is lost by doing this.
Holistically, he show successfully presents an artist known for ad hoc activities and online presence in an institutional environment without gentrifying the works. This is achieved in the main through conceptual exploration through active behaviour and emphases on play in the works and curating. Refreshing is the freedom with which the artist and curators seem to have worked, presenting an exhibition that is simultaneously honest, overpowering, darkly comical and immersive.
Matthew Merrick is an artist and lecturer based in Leeds.