For more info about Shadow Play project, visit website http://lilyhonglei.com/shadowplay2
November 15, 2016
For more info about Shadow Play project, visit website http://lilyhonglei.com/shadowplay2
June 22, 2016
May 6, 2016
Lily & Honglei Art Studio continues presenting their new project “Shadow Play” by launching the next solo exhibition at Wilfrid Israel Museum of Asian Art & Studies.
Although remains in-progress, the artist collective has been invited to exhibit their new project at several art venues around the globe since 2015, including Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning in New York, SOMART in San Francisco, Gwangju Media Art Festival in South Korea, and Wilfrid Israel Museum in Israel. The exhibits include a dozen of large prints, and a slideshow compiled of seventy screenshots of “Shadow Play” virtual reality.
By Dr. Shoshan Brosh-Vaitz and Shir Meller-Yamaguchi. Editing by He Li
“Chinese shadow puppet theater probably began in the 6th century during the Tang dynasty as a means of disseminating religious and historical narratives, often with highlighting the value of justice and morality. Over the years, the design of the dyed leather shadow puppets became increasingly complex; delicate cutting and coloring as well as an impressive repertoire of characters and set decorations came to be developed. Due to the dramatic ideological, technological, and cultural change that took place in China during the 20th century, this art form has waned in popularity and almost become a thing of the past. The medium has been preserved primarily through the work of collectors such as Richard Hardiman, whose collection is presented in the exhibition.
“Folk art, however, is deeply rooted in cultural consciousness and has the power to revive itself when it becomes relevant to its time again. In Shadow Play by New York-based Chinese art collective Lily and Honglei, the shadow puppets reappear in a new guise within a seemingly naïve set. Originally created on a virtual reality platform, the work was adapted for screening as a slideshow presentation for the exhibition. Using the magical imagery of the traditional shadow puppets, the artists present critical commentary on the social ills shadowing over China.
“Shadow Play reflects on the radical transformations experienced by China over the past thirty years through a tragic story of a rural family. The story embodies a deplorable trend that has been taking place all over China: villages and rural neighborhoods are being razed, and people who object to it are being murdered by interested parties. Children are being abducted while migrant workers are being relocated from small villages to filthy, overcrowded underground dwellings in large cities, all the while pollution abounds and public security breaks down. Basic values such as life, freedom, and dignity are being trampled in broad daylight. Lily and Honglei sketch this grim reality as a surrealistic narrative, in which mesmerizing beauty and horror are placed side by side. Green sunlight and an enchanted moonlight of yellowish-red color become obfuscated by the shadowy predicaments of reality.
“Scenes from the traditional shadow puppet theater are presented alongside scenes from its contemporary counterpart to offer a perspective on the age-old conflict between man’s base, demonic portions-which are manifest in greed, violence and exploitation–and the beautiful, exalted facets of human existence, which dwells in harmony, cooperation, altruism, and dedication.”
For more info about “Shadow Play,” visit project website http://lilyhonglei.com/shadowplay2/about.html
April 24, 2016
Essay by Serena Jara, Jamaica Flux 2016 Catalog:
“A smoggy window view looks outwards towards a bustling cityscape, where traffic, skyscrapers, and pedestrians disappear into the industrialized atmosphere. An inverted figure materializes from the haze, suspended midair. Free falling through dense smog, the body appears poised to crash on top of the urban sprawl, frozen in its ominous descent. Gray tones envelop the dystopian scene as well as the weightless industrial worker, who appears rendered in hand drawn lines, cut out and collaged into photographic space. Her final moments assume hauntingly mythological characteristics, telling one story of the suicides afflicting many migrant workers who build China’s expanding skylines.
“Lily and Honglei’s installation for Jamaica Flux, entitled, ‘Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China’ and exhibited on site at the Jamaica Center of Arts and Learning, studies the many layers of China’s expansion into modernity. Employing darkly dystopian allegories that reflect individualized struggles, the narrative of a village family displaced by mass land grabbing takes on the forms of virtual and augmented realities. The overarching storyline is comprised of both research and thirty years of lived experience. Presented in four chapters, the tale details the murder of the village chief at the hands of demolition crews, his son’s subsequent abduction, and his wife’s journey into the city to search for her lost child. Featuring a synthesis between traditional Chinese shadow play puppetry and advanced three dimensional rendering technologies, the project becomes an immersive fable told through equal parts symbolism and bleak reflections of reality.
“As the mother emerges from the subterranean city beneath Beijing, home to many rural migrant workers who build the expanding urban skyline above ground, she witnesses some of the most strikingly dark imagery visible in “Shadow Play.” Images of falling workers hover over her anonymously like ghosts, dangling from wires and steel beam ledges. Speaking at the 2015 Creative Capital Artist’s Retreat, Honglei explains that the visuals of descending migrant bodies ‘specifically reflects on the worker suicide cases at Foxconn factory, the electronics manufacturer behind popular products like iPads and iPhones.’ Despite their spirit-like, evaporating qualities, one cannot separate the disappearing figures from the “modernity” achieved by rapid urbanization of China. Lily and Honglei effectively bridge disconnect from both sides of one story into potent allegorical tensions, fitting vast complexity into small shadow puppet characters inhabiting a phone or tablet’s screen. Their imagery causes audiences to question the advancement of culture, embedded directly into the technologies which enable such costly ‘progressions’ to occur continuously.”
August 2, 2015
Representing the art studio, Lily & Honglei presented on-going project “Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China” during a week long gathering of art professionals and Creative Capital grantees in both 2015 and 2013, who have received support from the organization for their projects in four categories: Moving Image, Visual Arts, Emerging Field and Performance Arts.
“We’re deeply moved by these artists’ courageous works that are pushing the boundaries, advocating for social justice, or promoting community wellbeing.” Lily and Honglei stated, “it was a great honor and wonderful opportunity to share our work with a group of exceptional artists. Through our project, we wanted to make a voice for those who cannot.”
A transcript of Lily & Honglei’s presentation:
Our project is called “Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China.” We are building the piece on both deep research and our 30-year life experience in China. The intention of this multimedia project is to visualize the urbanization process that has irreversibly changed the society, culture, and environment of the world’s most populous country.
Visually, the project is inspired by traditional Chinese shadow play, while technologically it’s decidedly forward-looking: first, we are developing digital animations for video installation in physical space; second, virtual reality sets the foundation for another facet of the piece- much of the project could be experienced through an immersive environment in cyperspace that anybody with Internet connection could access in real-time. A third segment of the piece will be developed using augmented reality technology on mobile devices. The three layers combine into a visual account of the complex process of urbanization, highlighting the tragic story of one Chinese rural family. The work is presented in four chapters:
The First Chapter shows the family of the village head leading a peaceful live in the countryside. It presents a landscape with traditional residences built in harmony with the natural environment. This chapter also depicts the violent confrontations between the villagers and a demolition team working for the local government and real estate developers. This type of clashes, often deadly, has become commonplace as a result of large-scale land-grabbing over the past two decades. At the end of this chapter, the village head is brutally crushed to death by the demolition team’s truck.
In Chapter 2, the village is demolished and most parts reduced to rubble. The rural landscape has been drastically transformed. The child of the village head is alone playing outside one night when a stranger in dark suit emerges and gives the child candy. Subsequently, the child is drugged and abducted. This chapter addresses the serious social problem of child abduction. It’s estimated that some 70,000 children are kidnapped in China every year, with many of them sold for adoption. The one-child policy, a fundamental strategy for China’s economic growth, has contributed to this problem.
In Chapter 3, the mother begins her journey looking for the missing child. She arrives the city’s train station along with countless migrant workers who are later struggling with their urban lives. Many of them have to live in the ‘underground city,’ which is an enormous network that comprises of tunnels, basements, even bomb shelters. This complex is located underneath the skyscrapers that they built with their own hands. The imagery of the falling workers is a metaphor for their fate. This specifically reflects on the worker suicide cases at the Foxconn factory, the electronics manufacturer behind popular products like the iPad and the iPhone.
In the last chapter, the mother continues to travel across the country in search of her child. Through her journey she observes the environmental degradation. Water and soil are severely polluted by industrial waste. Both rural and urban areas are shrouded in smog. All of such is caused by the mindless exploitation of the environment for the sake of fast economic growth. Meanwhile, the cultural heritage verges on extinction. Countless historic sites have submerged underwater as a result of gigantic engineering projects. The social environment remains as repressive as ever: the whole system can be compared to a maze without an exit, with people trapped within.
One day, the mother finds herself facing a heartbreaking sight: 5 homeless boys are found dead in a garbage container. They died from carbon monoxide poisoning after attempting to warm themselves by burning charcoal inside. In fact the five kids are among the 60 million Chinese children who left behind in the countryside when their parents set off as migrant workers.
We will also share a few clips of our previous work. Our proposed project “Shadow Play” will be completed around the summer of 2016. we are seeking some opportunities, particularly exhibition venues such as museums, galleries or art festivals. Also, we hope to develop collaborations with our fellow artists. This is our project. Thank you very much!
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