Order/Disorder: The Aesthetics of Li Xiaofei

有序无序——李消非的镜头

刊载于Li Xiaofei: Assembly Line P.238-241
Also seen on Randian, for English please scroll down.

文/顾灵

我们生活在可见与不可见的网格及噪声之中,时刻被其包围。我们持续遵循着某些日常的惯例,未免机械式地行事。李消非对秩序在视觉呈现上的钟爱,同其所深切体会的个人在秩序中的处境,贯穿于他在过去16年来的创作。

2004年的录像系列《同一时间的标准》及2006年的摄影系列《与之相对应的标准》通过密集排列逐帧拍摄的路面及建筑局部,构成了一系列错时的抽象画:断裂而无法衔接却又从观看上仍可连贯的高速路面,同一辆车同时在此或彼驶出或驶入那一小格镜头;混凝土高楼的灰色调,机械式的明暗布局,时而倾斜、时而规矩的画面交叠。连续帧的画面被置于同一画面同时呈现,带有某种电脑绘图软件选色框中的渐变效果。李消非将当时的镜头作为都市公共空间的窥探器,并将之剪辑为画幅中的理性风景,去除了画面中心的对象,也剔除了当时当刻的喧嚣嘈杂。

2009年的《2000后-待到山花烂漫时,他在丛中笑。》及之后的《葬花吟》向个体本身聚焦:前者是对孩子们的采访,镜头中央的被访者应答着自己的梦想、记忆和苦恼。孩子们在李消非的镜头前大多自然、不拘束,言所欲言。屏幕中往往同时呈现多组孩子的采访,于是几个孩子对同一问题的不同回答一目了然。后者讲述了桃花林中一对相依相偎、幽然葬花的同性恋人。枝头的扶风盈绿与满地的残花碎粉,吹生出李消非的情景交融、寓情于景。

2010年的地铁灯箱项目《其实蛮辛苦的》与录像《他的语言会随着你的想法而改变》可以看作是其目前正在延续的创作系列“流水线”的序篇,也是李消非决意投身工厂的起点。工人对自身工作场景的叙述被其他人的讲述所切断,正如早期的那些非连贯多帧画面:理性常态被干扰的惯常发生吸引李消非将其转化为录像语言,进行中被骤然切断并重又开始的节奏呼应着人与人造机械环境共存的真实写照。

对称、中心、机器、机械、运动、移动、规则、速度、节奏、色彩,来自数万个小时的拍摄素材。李消非极尽其人脉网络寻找并拍摄工厂:这些都市生活之河的源头,消耗与消费的生产基础,大至金属加工、汽车装配,小到家纺家具,厂房作为李消非选择的独特视觉空间,以其全然务实功利的角色出发,在他的镜头中变身为可供观赏的他处。刺鼻的气味、窒息的粉尘、震耳欲聋的机器轰鸣,在明净的镜头中消失。这一艺术家着力构建的机械世界,人的叙述只占其中的一部分,并被逐渐缩减。关于个体生活的琐碎叙述被机器弱化甚而吞噬。关于工业生产、环境污染、资本剥削、生存状况的社会学讨论隐于引人入胜的镜头中:持续重复操作的工人近乎平静的表情与肢体动作,将机械环境本身淡入看似合理的天然。然而我们还应看到某种深层的搅动。

李消非说:“其实人跟机器是一种完全平行的关系,有时交错在一起,我试着用这种切片的方式——人、机器,人、机器——交错穿插在一起,让人产生既真实又虚幻的另外一种真实感。……我感觉自己在工厂里一秒钟都待不下去,但我看到那些工人好像完全沉浸在他们的工作中。我想这和你处的环境有直接关系,在什么样环境里就会做什么样的感受。”

深层的搅动或许来自人性天生的不安分、不甘。李消非的最新个展《一只螃蟹和一块巧克力》是对近年来密集国外驻地项目的漂亮小结。从新西兰最南至挪威最北,李消非从南极和北极带回了净化过的镜头语言。“我唯一找到的不同就是海水的颜色,北极那边的海水是深黑深蓝色的,靠南极那边的海水是深绿色的。”或许和PM值成反比,录像内容的饱和度反而大幅提升。静谧的天蓝海蓝中雪山的淡蓝倒影,时泛涟漪的碧水中柔波荡漾的原始森林,田园牧歌般的草原上好奇心胜的奶牛和憨态可掬的绵羊。厂房中的机械运动被带慢了,映射在自然之外,卷烟机中的烟卷和保罗.史密斯般的纺织机线,自此有了全新的参照系。人在此刻得以跳脱开人造的环境,转又不得不被人造所封闭。从俄罗斯引入挪威的帝王蟹牵扯出经济与生态的悖论,巧克力的生产与流通亦可导向对殖民和消费的思考。当两者与其他“流水线”系列同时出现,一个新的吵闹的环境显现出来:每一作品都在无声和有声间切换,每一作品的声轨在展厅中互相干扰,拉扯出一种不可抗的暴力,一种不可见的驱动力,一种艺术家从镜头之后为画面注入的扭力:一切只是在快速地发生,且是如此局限!

李消非并不志在纪录,亦无从辩证,他仍是从视觉出发并能回到视觉中。在暗黑的屏幕或展厅中,机械、人与自然的气息杂糅交汇,混杂着焦躁与宁静。这全来自李消非的镜头,存于有序和无序之间。

by Gu Ling

In this moment in our lives, we are surrounded by a web of noise between the visible and the invisible. We purposefully follow our daily routines, without taking an automated approach. Li Xiaofei’s partiality for an ordered sense of aesthetics, a deep examination of the experience of the individual in an ordered environment has been the focus of 16 years of practice.

The video series “Standard of the Same Time” in 2004 and the photo series “Standard corresponding to it” which uses dense shots of roads and architectural details, comprises a kind of interlaced abstract painting: fractured and non-converging still when we view it, the surface of the road is consistent, a car driving in and out of the same shot, the grayish tone of concrete tall buildings, the mechanical nature of the light and shade of the picture, the overlapping diagonal and straight surfaces. Consecutive frames are shown in one picture, like a gradient effect found in picture editing software. Li’s camera is like a peephole into urban public space; he edits the logical space of the picture by eliminating the subjects in the centre of the camera as well as the noise and hustle.

“After 2000, When the mountain flowers are in full bloom, She will smile mingling in their midst” and the later “Song of the Burial of Flowers” focus on individuals: the former is an interview with children talking about their dreams, worries and memories. Most of the children behave naturally and talk freely. The video frequently shows several interviews simultaneously, so that the different answers to the various questions posed are evident. The later work tells a story about two homosexual lovers, who are seen cuddling each other buried beneath a blanket of fallen petals. The scenes of swaying green, the tree branches and the remains of fallen flowers—all demonstrate Li’s ability to fuse emotions with the surrounding environment.

“Performance Outcome is Everything” the 2010 Subway Light Box series and the video “His Language Will Change With Your Thoughts” can be seem as the preface to as well as the starting point for the “Assembly Line” series—an ongoing body of workfeaturing.workers’ narrations about their workplaces interrupted by those of the other workers. Just like in the earlier connected, multi-frame shots: Li Xiaofei’s video language disturbs the logical normal state of things: while an alternating pattern of abrupt endings and restarts human’s awkward co-existence with machines.

Ten of thousands of shooting hours have given birth to a pastiche of symmetry, centering, machinery, motion, displacement, rules, speed, rhythm and color. In such an expansive project, Li exhausted his connections in search for factories, which are the origins of urban life as well as the foundation for consumption and thus manufacturing. From large metal processing factories and automobile assembly plants to smaller ones producing furniture and home textiles, these workshops are seen by the artist as a unique visual space. These places, which are designed purely for practical use, have become objects to be admired through the lens by the artist. The pungent smells, suffocating dust and deafening noises of machines all disappear in the clean bright eye of the camera. In the world he constructs, personal narratives are only one part—a part which was gradually reduced—just as the descriptions of the daily lives of the individuals are weakened and swallowed by the machines. Sociological discussions on industry manufacturing, environmental pollution, capitalist exploitation and living conditions are hidden behind the camera lens. The almost peaceful expressions are the gestures of the workers as they repeat certain movements, turning this mechanical environment into something seemingly rational and sensible. But still we still feel deeply moved in some way.

Li Xiaofei says: “Actually, the relationship between human beings and machines is of a parallel nature. Sometimes they interlace with each other. I tried to interlace them as if they were slices—human, machine; human, machine, provoking another sense of reality which is real, yet at the same time imaginary. … I myself could not tolerate staying a second longer in the factory; watching the workers, though, they seemed to be fully immersed in their work. I think the environment you are in has a direct effect on this. Environments determine how you feel.”

These deep feelings are perhaps the product of the innate unwillingness and restlessness of human beings. Li’s latest solo show “Crabs and Chocolate” at OV Gallery is a smart summary of work completed during a number of residency programs over the past few years. From the Southern tip of New Zealand to the Northern fringes of Norway, Li brought footage shot in a purified video language. “The only difference I found between the two places was the color or the sea water,” Li said. “It was dark blue and black in the North Pole, and dark green in the South Pole.” Compared with his previous work, we see an increasing atmospheric clarity, the saturation level of the videos has skyrocketed, rising in inverse proportion to the PM2 levels: the baby blue images of the snow-capped mountains reflected in the silent lake: the swaying reflections of the forest on the rippling blue water and the lovingly clumsy sheep and naïve and curious cows in an idyllic pasture. The mechanical pace of the various factories is slowed down in the light of the natural environment which brings a whole new frame of reference to the cigarettes filing through the cigarette machines and the yarn threading through the industrial looms in a color pallet reminiscent of Paul Smith. People are able to escape this artificial environment, but at the same time they are confined by it. The king crabs imported from Russia to Norway create paradoxical ripples throughout the economy and the ecosystem. And the production and consumption of the chocolate also leads us to reflect upon ideas of consumption and colonialism.

And both of these appear together at the same time in the “Assembly Line” series. A new, loud and noisy environment appears: each work switching between mute mode and sound mode, the sound track of each work interfering with the others in the space of the exhibition hall, producing a sense of overwhelming violence, an invisible driving force produced by the artist injecting torque into each shot through his camera, everything happening so quickly and in a limited way.

Not aiming to record or investigate, the visual is both Li’s starting point and his destination. In the dark art space and on the screen, machines, human beings and images of nature mingle together with anxiousness and calm. They have all been produced by Li’s camera—in an order, yet without order.

Li Xiaofei: Assembly Line P.238-241

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