I now know that there exists another punctum (another 'stigmatum') than the 'detail.' This new punctum, which is no longer of form but of intensity, is Time, the lacerating emphasis of the noeme ('that-has-been'), its pure representation.
— Roland Barthes
Before starting the writing of this, I had spent nearly two months to think, seriously, whether it is serious or not to use “healing art” to describe Liang Yue’s work. But a tangle like this never results anything constructive, and the final breakthrough comes from a wayward decision: whatever! I surely believe that for the people who are suffering emotional disorder, faculty dysfunction, memory loss and impaired judgment on this earth of visual overflow and information explosion, Liang’s video and photographs work a cure.
By “Healing”, I mean if one would spend a few more minutes to look into Liang’s works, he or she will catch a warm power under the surface of her calm, cold, uneventfull or even weak images. This healing character could be found in her 2013 solo exhibition “Quite Rooms” at ShanghART H-Space— in A Quite Room (2012), where snowflakes are whirling on three screens that are higher than people; in Moon (2012), where she has focused the lenses of an astronomical telescope on a small part of the moon and made a short film that looks like a stilling image; in Video No. 20130920 (2013), where the red wild flower are waving with the wind under the gloomy sky; and in Between the Islands (2012), where the sea waves are hitting a ship and create the white foam. As it is indicated in the exhibition title, these works have metaphorically created a quiet room out of the reality flooded with visual and sound informations. The origin of this healing power is the energy and living activities that Liang has captured in the unnoticed, aimless and speechless environment. Her sensitivity to these (the energy and living activities) is also intensively presented in the works of her 2016 solo “Intermittent”, in the works of which she has captured the fluttered insects around a big tree at dusk, the baby fishes moving in sparkling river water in an early spring, the bud of an epiphyllum painfully yet beautifully blossoming in silence, men’s suits hanging upside down from a window ledge and waving with wind, the cold, stone-like coral fossil that freezes a busy lively ecology in the past, and the jet plane that is drawing a silver trace in the clear sky. Through these works Liang has shown her personal focus point and view of the world: in the seemingly static world there are always vigorous lives. And this, has constituted another perspective of the healing character in her art.
But Liang’s work is not solely a simple healing piece. Underneath the appearing peace, there is a configuration that pricks the viewer; in other words, her works are ones with puncta. The concept of punctum (or puncta in plural form), raised by Roland Barthes in his Camera Lucida (1980), is to denote the pricking, personally touching photographic details which establish an intimate relationship between the viewer and the object or person within it. I would designate the “punctum” in Liang’s works as visual events in the moving images. For example, in Video No. 20150415 (2015), a jet plane passes through and draws a silver line on the sky. In Epiphyllum 01-04 (2015), the epiphyllums wait, quiver in the dark, until suddenly burst into full bloom, like the sun rises over the sea. Then in Video No.20150531, there is a cat, free and relaxed, lying down the windowsill, with an expression that is highly conscious of the presence of the surroundings and the artist with the camera rather than indifferent to both. To put it simply, the “(visual) events” in Liang’s works are the slightly inharmonious, irrelevant visual plots that naturally grow from the seemingly quiet and even weak (or uneventful) images. And what Liang as an artist does, is to wait to catch her punctum in the unnoticed, aimless and speechless nature and human environment, and thus, to realize the complete meaning of video and waiting.
However, if we stop to think twice, is she only a catcher who waits shoots and records? Undoubtedly, Liang has an intuition to capture the growth of those visual events. Her own understanding of punctum goes beyond the category of photography and moving images—she believes that punctum also (and always) exist in life and the hidden warmth showed in her videos is the energy to warp up the point of the “pricking”. In this sense, instead of intuitively catching the happening of the visual events, she is, in fact, directing them with her premonition of what is going to happen. In other words, she seems has summoned, therefore, created the punctum in her moving images.
There are two visible tendencies among the 70s- and 80s-born Chinese artists who work with moving images: the preference of cinematic language and the use of narrative (or the “personal narrative”). Taking these two tendencies as coordinates, Liang’s practice could be placed at a distinctive position with its unique significance. On one hand, the relationship between Liang and the camera is more direct and physical. Camera as the extension of her body, eyes and ears, does not only embody her visual and auditory stimulating point, but also directly and honestly present the features of her body movements and her ways of seeing. On the other hand, her works are not constructed on the “personal narrative”, and her typical “visual events” are like plants, growing naturally from the images.
There is a delicate relation between photography and moving images that Liang is working with. When working with moving images, she pays more attention to the shooting process rather than postproduction. She only uses very essential means to create video works: normally a piece of her work only consists of one shot (captured in one long-take) or very few shots, and the sound materials are normally recorded at the shooting site; after that, only essential postproduction is applied to the materials, and the works are often titled with the date of shooting. When she is shooting a long, static or slow take, her use of the video camera is very close the use of a photo camera; and yet, the temporal dimension added by the video camera, provides a space in-between the images, for the visual event to take place.
Through her practices in the last few years—from “Quite Rooms” in 2014, “Easy Going” in 2015 (OCAT, Shenzhen) to “Intermittent” in 2016 (ShanghART Beijing)，Liang has further developed the language of exhibition making. She regards an exhibition as a complete, comprehensive expression, and builds up relations of visions and meanings between works by an exhibition-specific “setting”. As previously marked, Liang pays more attention to on-site shooting than post-production. However, if you look at her works in an exhibition, you will find that Liang’s work doesn’t complete at the point of postprocduction. Instead, she invents a sort of “post-postproduction”—treating all the selected works as raw materials, using images (whether still or moving) , sound, light, relations between variable works and viewer’s movement in the physical space as elements and materials of the exhibition, and creating the exhibition-specific presentation of the works that regarded the exhibition as a unity of the final output. In this sense, rather than what are normally called “the video installations”, what Liang establishes in Intermittent is an exhibition language that group multiple works into video constellation, by using a way of video editing that could be termed as post-postproduction. To the viewer, it is an immersive world of moving images, photographs and sound that vibrates a unique rhythm in the space.