Trace (excerpt)

Artist: Lily & Honglei
Medium: Digital video, Online virtual world environment and performance, soundtrack
Year of completion: 2009
Video Running Time (original): 7 minutes.
Excerpt Duration: 2 minutes (starting point: 0:00:05:00, ending point:0:00:07:00)
Size: varied

Artist Statement

The video Trace is based on our cyber Chinese garden environment haunted with ancient spirits. It visualizes Derrida’s notion, “The trace is not a presence but is rather the simulacrum of a presence that dislocates, displaces, and refers beyond itself.”

In the beginning of the video, Daiyu, the protagonist of Dream of the Red Chamber, is setting off from her room. Carrying her flower-hoe and basket, she intends to collect fallen petals and bury them in the garden in a late spring day. The camera switches to the second character, a maiden seeking the singing bird in Andersen’s Nightingale. She wanders through the Peony Pavilion and West Tower,gazing on the petals drifting away on the stream. In her deep meditation, three spirits appear from dimmed, submerged zone: Ji Kang is playing Song of Guang Ling before being decapitated for offending officials; Mi Heng is beating the drum while cursing the then Prime Minister and his aides; under the wall, Mengjiang is morning his husband who died during construction of The Great Wall of Emperor Qin. Through the mental process of ‘lamenting, seeking, meditating and expressing,’ Trace brings the spirit of these historic figures or legends embodying free-thinking and expression in Chinese history to a global audience.

Chinese garden culture becomes our inspirations since it comprehensively encompasses eastern philosophy and aesthetics, as Shen Fu said, ‘it aims to see the small in the large, to see the large in the small, to see the real in the illusory and to see the illusory in the real.’ At the end of 2006, we started building an online virtual Chinese garden, The Grand View Garden referencing to Dream of the Red Chamber, the classical Chinese novel lamenting losses as well as recalling the glorious past. The initial intention is constructing a multimedia presentations space that is difficult to be realized in physical space, while the underlying motivation is that we as immigrant artists had a profound need reconnecting with our roots in Chinese culture through artistic practice. Upon the completion of The Grand View Garden, we invited online community members to participate a series of performances reinterpreting Chinese history and legends, which point to social, cultural and political issues in today’s China.

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