In LIANG Yue's recent exhibition The Quiet Rooms, she demonstrates her minimalist style of video art to its limit. In the following passages, I will explore six of her video works of her exhibition and draw the corresponding conclusion.
In The Quiet Rooms, LIANG exhibits only six videos out of many others that she has created in recent two years. Firstly, let us start from titles of these six videos. They are Moon Moon, 20130920, 20130921, 20130429, 20130716 and A Quiet Room respectively. Just from the title, it is interesting to find that four of them are named after shooting dates, from which we cannot get content of works, thus making little difference with these Untitled. Regarding to the other two, Moon Moon is nothing more than the moon surface captured by single take, whereas A Quiet Room is simply a three-channel video installation displayed in a quiet room. A significant characteristic of her artistic creation can be found from titles which remove directly any meaning that may possibly trigger association for audience.
The six works describe only one theme: natural landscape. Being the only exception, A Quiet Room, a three-channel video, presents noise of cars running on a road in the reversed golden ratio. It breaks the natural serenity and peace, but it relapses soon into peace again. The natural landscape LIANG's works depict includes the moon to the sky, sea to river, and cobweb to birds, distant mountains to nearby plants as well as fallen leaves to green pines. The tenderness they deliver unanimously is precisely the crystallization of such tranquility which excludes the time out of the space.
TAKES AND SOUNDS
When we watch these six works carefully, we realize that two of them are filmed with fixed single take, another two three fixed single take, another one four, and three-screen work several fixed takes. All the works in the use of its language are exhibiting strong static feature. Secondly, the sounds of five videos are completely removed. Only A Quiet Room displays natural direct sound recorded when it was shot, but in most of the scenes there are almost no sound whatsoever. Hence, the audience is easy to fall into a state of meditation through the static and silent screen.
Further, we find that the images shot by fixed takes are in fact not "static". They move either so slowly that they elude perception of naked eyes, or very irregularly. The former one requires a great deal of patience from audience for notice of small changes, while the latter manifests contradictions between the fixed frame and the movement of filmed scene, rescuing the images from complete tedium and endowing them with vigor.
Furthermore, we find that lens often appears to intentionally out-of-focus in A Quiet Room, the only work with sound effect. In another piece of work 20130920, between distant mountains in the heavy fog and the nearby plants, a strong relationship between nothingness and essence is highlighted. In the video 20130429, LIANG slowly zooms the focus to create transformation of blackness and actuality or to use shallow focus to blur distant scenery in order to highlight close shot .The phenomenon of out-of-focus is a remarkable characteristic in the majority of LIANG’s videos. Whether it is caused by LIANG’s subconscious out- of-focus or instability of hand-held video camera, these changes of focuses and defocuses amplify depth of field in her works, a feeling similar to perspective effect elaborated in theory of tradition Chinese painting with which distant mountains are achieved without wrinkles, distant water without waves, distant people without eyeballs. 7 (GUO Xi, Chinese landscape painter, c.1020 - c.1090)
Since 2010, LIANG suddenly changed her shot from city to nature. This concern ultimately produced new works including Whereabouts (2011), What Are You Looking... at (2011) and Dasein (2010), apart from the six videos above. Between 2009 and 2010, this concern for nature has already emerged. In the Looping Action and Oh, Beach, the videos were still shot in cities, but lightning in the sky has become main focus and was captured by low-angle shot. There were people within her frames, but they were away from the city to face the nature. It recorded people ignoring nature to embracing it. Although artist has explained that it was a part of her shooting plans, there was a huge difference between her and her previous creation. Even after 2010, her videos about city and people also have changed because of this transformation.
LIANG once had a conversation with me about the fixed video camera: The reason why I use the fixed takes with the tripod to shot the fixed scenery was because I think that the world already exist there. Those trees in the scenery could not move like human beings. Actually, it is human beings who decide the way to see the world. So I only show the static state of the scenery without any other film techniques. (Interview with LIANG Yue 22'21'').
The world has already existed is the core idea which LIANG expects to transmit to the public through her exhibition The Quiet Rooms. No matter those roaring cities in her previous works or the quiet and natural scenery showed in the six videos this time, they all express a simple philosophy. However, the simple philosophy is always polluted and engulfed by the flooded world of image, decomposed by lavish techniques and exceeding sound effects, and deceived by inexpensive pseudo-emotion and excessive persuasions. In The Use and Abuse of Art, Jacques Barzun wrote that the chaotic situation caused by rudeness and excess brings us another consequence. People, in this situation, do not attain salvation no matter how impressive these artworks are.8 It is obviously because what we see is not simply reflection of real things produced by brain through the retina which is unlike photograph printed in darkroom. Eyes observe the objects according to some hypothesis. When the objects are showed in different ways for different purposes, eyes become slanted witnesses. It is exactly the reason why one's horizon will be widened and heart will lose its dominant position once shocked by the image world. As the Tao Te Ching says, various colors make people blind and various noises make people deaf.
On the contrary, shock is in a lone and silent "static" state spreading into LIANG's videos. Follow wind secretly enter night, moist things soft without sound, DU Fu's (Chinese poet of Tang Dynasty, 712-770), famous verse are not only highly poetic description of the nature, but poetic interpretation about how LIANG's creation touches her audience. But how can people understand, who are accustomed to shocks produced by rudeness? Compared with LIANG's "minimized" works like in her exhibition The Quiet Rooms, my comment has almost become another kind of "bombard of reading". In fact, there are twenty-six characters from Tao Te Ching which can be the best possible annotation for the exhibition: Push far enough towards the Void, Hold fast enough to quietness, And of the ten thousand things none but can be worked on by you. I have beheld them, whither they go back; Great music has the faintest notes, The Great Form is without shape. For Tao is hidden and nameless.
In the past decade, LIANG Yue's tireless and persistent effort pulls at my heartstrings. Life is the exhibition. The total of her experiences, her dedication and faith is culminated in a body of starkly moving works with an almost meditative way, as to allow the audience a glimpse of the evident. However, viewing cannot be a mirror which only reflects the viewer, but also evokes a vibrant feeling from our hearts.
Grosse, a German art historian once wrote in The Beginnings of Art that almost every great artistic creation is not to cater to but to fight against the fashion. Almost every great artist is not elected but rejected by the public.
These words are hereby as a conclusion. 16 Nov. 2013
Exhibition Name: LIANG Yue: The Quiet Rooms, Dec. 2013 Exhibition
Venue: ShanghART H-Space,Shanghai