China – Living in between Real and Unreal

By Xiaoying (Juliette) YUAN

Presentation for “Making the Reality Really Real”, the 11th Consciousness Reframed International Research Conference, Oct. 28 – Nov. 04, 2010, Trondheim, Norway

(excerpt)

Seeking for Land of Illusion

Contemporaries of Cao Fei, Beijing media artists Lily & Honglei resurrected the culture and history of their motherland in Second Life’s virtual space, while re-constituting it in a contemporary context so as to comment on the social problems in contemporary China. Behind their interest in blurring between real and unreal, is their search of identity and culture. In Lily & Honglei’s “Land of Illusion – Reconstituting History and Culture in Online Virtual World” [Fig 3] diverse social issues in contemporary China are discussed through symbolized objects and characters: the “great fire wall” symbolizing the cultural barrier, the “underwater city” a virtual recreation of a real historical site near the Three Georges Dam, where the female character roaming around the “underwater city” is the ghost of Xishi, a famous beauty in folk tales.

Fig 3, Lily & Honglei, Paradise of the Assassins, Land of Illusion, screen shot by author

The artists are not only appealing for the conservation of Chinese cultural heritage as the soul of the country but are also concerned about more universal themes such as religion and freedom. In episode IV “Celebration!” [Fig 4], a work in memory of the student victims the Sichuan earthquake in 2008,  the year of the Olympic Games, a virtual Merry-go-around is built inside a Water Cube where the Games were held three months after the historic disaster. The entire episode is an ironic allusion of China’s official media blackout on the student death toll investigation during the period of the grandiose Olympic Games.

Fig 4, Lily & Honglei, Celebration!, Land of Illusion, screen shot by author

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