Playing in a dark exhibition hall of about one hundred square meters is Fang Lu’s five-part signature work, for which she began recording in 2001. Her production process involves pre-installing a particular environment, taping a scene, and compiling the final product: a behavioral recording. Fang Lu’s completed work does not correspond to the actual time spent recording, but she does take advantage of her feel for behavioral performance—and for documentary—to camouflage her works as “true images.” She makes use of the perpetual psychological time that exists within images, thereby creating a field of convergence between behavior and video, with the hope of deriving a more liberated mode of expression.
During a shoot, Fang Lu will sometimes use the camera as a converter in order to capture the spontaneity of subjects’ bodies in given circumstances. A classic example of this was Density, a work of Fang’s from 2005. She made performers engage in contradictory behavior, requiring them to remain seated while also constantly trying to move out of their bodies together with the chair and the ground. The violently shaking camera lens and the loud, banging effect accompanying the chairs’ hitting the ground leave the audience feeling as if they are physically engaged in what the performers were experiencing—bringing full circle the liberated, open-minded sentiment governing the entire set up of the video texts at Space Station.
In stark contrast to the way in which Density makes audience members feel involved, My Schoolmates, a work also from 2005, subjects its audience to an entirely different first-hand experience: the subtle psychology of the inability to participate. Fang Lu invited her students to take turns dancing to pop music in front of the camera. Even though audience members can hear the movement-inspiring music through headphones, and even though they can see the wantonly shaking dancers right in front of them, from start to finish their fixed seats leave them with a hopelessly stationary perspective of the scene. The result is a perceptible contrast between the numbness of the audience and the input of the performers.
In the current exhibition of Untitled Being II (2001), the camera and its object form an even more intimate relationship: the artist herself acts as a whole body painted with color, an unidentifiable human-shaped creature writhing and licking its own body alone in a narrow space encircled by a white canopy. It may be said that this is a performance of the vital body’s narcissism, but even more it can be seen as a stalemate between the gaze of the artist and the gaze of the machine, resulting in the conscious objectification of her own body. Fang Lu’s Skin (2009) also features the artist herself as its performer: layer upon layer, she repeatedly puts on and then sheds clothing of all four seasons in front of the camera. But throughout, her skin remains an invisible entity wrapped in visible clothing, and as a result of the artist’s own editing and dubbing, the clothing itself becomes a material extension of her skin. Indeed, it is as if the clothing, flooded with life, becomes the organism, and the body, the shadow of the person, sinks into a Chaplin-esque state of comic passivity.
The most prominent position upon entering the exhibition hall is given to Housework Ritual (2009), but it is a fairly boring recording. The first spectacle that everyone witnesses consists of lackluster characters dawning business attire, and a scene of ritualized performance. But these recordings, made in recent years, are of common occurrences. In fact, the work presented here focuses on the details of domestic activities, and magnifies the tedious and the mechanical, using visual language to mobilize the elements of performance within them—the scenes, costumes, props, and so on—thereby revealing that there may be more to it than just routine. Dai Weiping