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
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
March 16, 2016
After months of intensive work, Lily & Honglei Art Studio is launching a series of public presentations and exhibitions of their on-going project “Shadow Play” at three venues in April and May, 2016: Queens Museum of Arts (NY), Wilfrid Israel Museum for Asian Arts & Studies (Israel), and Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (NY).
The exhibitions are produced in varied formats including video, augmented reality installation that is viewable on mobile phone apps, and prints juxtaposed with traditional Chinese shadow puppets (by courtesy of Wilfrid Israel Museum). The images appearing in the exhibitions present current stage of development of the multimedia project that integrates emerging technology such as Virtual Reality with traditional shadow puppetry motifs.
For more exhibition info and project updates, visit website http://lilyhonglei.com/shadowplay2
June 3, 2014
"Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China" is a 2014 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., for its Turbulence.org website. It was made possible with funding from the Jerome Foundation.
Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China
by Lily & Honglei
Over the past few decades China has been urbanizing at an astounding pace. In 2013, the People’s Republic unveiled its plan to relocate 260 million people from China’s countryside to one of 21 “mega regions” by 2020 (cbsnews.com). Such a significant shift will undoubtedly transform China’s national character, which has been predominantly agrarian for millennia. Shadow Play weaves three interfaces, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Physical Reality (PR), and combines the past and present – through time-honored imagery, paint, shadow play, and new media technologies – to immerse participants in the realities of contemporary China.
Thanks to the great support from co-directors, Jo-Anne Green and Helen Thorington, Shadow Play also becomes part of Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Division of Rare and Special Collections at Cornell University, NY.
April 16, 2014
Invited by Dr. Alberto Guevara, the editor-in-chief of inTension journal of York University, virtual reality project Land of Illusion by Lily & Honglei Art Studio (currently with three active members, Xiying Yang, Honglei Li and He Li) will be published in the next issue of this academic journal.
Issues of the journal are theme-based, but space is provided in each issue for articles, reviews, and artwork that engage the core interests of InTensions: the theatricality of power, corporealities of structural violence, and sensory regimes.
Issue 7 ‘Fun and Games – Playing to the Limit’
Dr. David Harris Smith, McMaster University
Dr. Elysée Nouvet, McMaster University
To play is human. Play is a social act of often unclear boundaries. The delineation of playing as a special conditional form of doing or acting in the world relies upon registers of seriousness, authenticity, consequence and import, yet these registers are ultimately ambiguous. Play can materialize and relativize banal affective and social relations. Play can imagine, insist on the possibility of, or suppress, difference. Play may provoke shock or distraction, conceal or reveal intention. Play may be encouraged or denied, rewarded or punished, feared, disdained, addictive, fatal.
What becomes possible as a result of play in specific contexts? What socio-cultural relations are inscribed in the various sites of play? Are there limits to the social power of play, or limits to the social contexts in which playful acts may be asserted? Or is the very delineation of some actions as play itself a limit on imagination and transformation? To what extent do the connotative associations of theatre, sport, or childhood constitute a limit on what is considered play? What is the role of play in science, industry, politics, or war? What associations are can be traced between play and inductive, exploratory, or experimental knowledge generation?
Developmental theories situate play in the process of accommodating to reality, whereby the child first assimilates difficult and incongruous aspects of reality by revisiting them with familiar schema. For Baudrillard, the reproduction of the ‘real’ risks eclipsing its truth-value. These positions inscribe a vast territory populated by varying admixtures of representation and awe. Is play necessarily reactionary if it is absorbed into the normative and normalizing practices of (re)production and consumption (Debord)? When are play and playfulness critical distractions to organized protest? Alternatively, how might simulation and virtual worlds unleash important re-imaginings and re-mappings of the social (Deleuze)? What are the unique potentialities of play when engaged as formative, preliminary, inconsequential, non-serious, speculative, or exploratory?
In this issue, we invite scholarly/artistic contributions that engage the relations between play, power, and social reproduction. We welcome theoretical explorations, as well as reflections, experiments, reports, or ethnographies on play and playfulness in its lived, historical, and cultural contexts.
View past issues of InTensions:
April 5, 2014
Milky Way is a single-channel video produced by Lily & Honglei Art Studio from 2009 to 2010, now on view at Zhulong Gallery, Dallas. Following is a description of the work:
Artists: Honglei Li, Xiying Yang, He Li
Medium: Oil on Paper, video
Film Duration: 4’20”
Completion Year: 2009-2010
An ancient folklore has become reality in present-day China.
The tale of the Weaving Maiden and the Buffalo Herder is known to practically every segment of the Chinese population. The narrative, which roots could be traced back thousands of years, revolves around a romance between the two namesake characters. The Weaving Maiden, a deity of the traditional Chinese pantheon, comes down to Earth and falls in love with the poor mortal Buffalo Herder. They marry in secret, transgressing against the boundary set between the human and the divine. When this serious offence is discovered by the Maiden’s mother, the chief goddess of Chinese folk religion, tragedy becomes inevitable. The mother calls her daughter back to the celestial realms, intending to undo the forbidden relationship. The Buffalo Herder, though, does not relinquish his love with such ease; he tries to reunite his family by sneaking into heaven with his two children. The plan is nonetheless foiled when the mother goddess draws a line in the sky, dividing the husband and the wife. The line becomes a river as deep waters gushes in and pushes through the heavenly nether.
Their love, though, finds a glimpse of respite when the mother decrees that they may reunite for one night each year. Only on the seventh night of the seventh month on the Chinese lunar calendar were the mythical lovers allowed to seek each other’s company. Such a tragedy is crystallized in the saga of Chinese astrology: the constellation Altair represents the Buffalo Herder while Vega is likened to the weaving maiden. The Milky Way is the celestial river which separates them.
As fancifully heartbreaking as the story is, it is undoubtedly more tragic that the tale has become reality for rural families in contemporary China. The traditional lifestyle of the agrarian population has been destroyed by the economic development that has been taking place over the past few decades. In order to fulfill their basic needs of living, hundreds of millions of rural people have poured into cities as migrant workers. True to the folklore, families have been separated and have no means of reuniting except for a day or two each year during the traditional Spring Festival. Such separation has not only brought dread to families, but also the collapse of cultural morality that roots in the relationship between land and people.
The animated film Milky Way reimagines the story of the Weaving Maiden and Buffalo Herder to reflect the social reality of present-day China. Settings include the urban landscape of Shanghai, the fireworks ceremony at the Beijing Olympics Stadium, and the ruinous aftermath of the Sichuan Earthquake that was concurrent with the 2008 Olympic Games.
The short film Milky Way is composed of a series of original oil-paintings created by Lily & Honglei from 2009 to 2010.
©2008-2014 LILY & HONGLEI ART STUDIO. All Rights Reserved.
[Photograph below courtesy of Zhulong Gallery]
Curator: Aja Martin
Satellite, the inaugural exhibition at Zhulong Gallery, features New Media works by 11 contemporary artists. Satellite frames the primary focus of our technologically-driven gallery as a hub for receiving and transmitting art and ideas. Projecting information through time and space, the selections presented in Satellite indicate future solo exhibitions at Zhulong Gallery. The works and the exhibition interpret and respond to data, culture, travel and time. Some works present subject matter relating to the exploration of outer space, and others hint at the satellite and its functions in an abstract, yet tangible manner. Of course, many of the works help raise the inevitable question, “Whose technology is it?”
For more info, visit
Also view the Preview Reception here
March 24, 2014
Video painting is a form of video art presented via projectors, LCD or other flat panel display and wall-mounted in the same manner as traditional paintings. 
“Ambient video will emerge as a supremely pictorial form – relying on visual impact and the subtle manipulation of image, layer, flow, and transition. It sits in the visual background of our lives – always changing, but never too quickly. It does not conquer, it seduces. It rewards attention, but never commands it. Rather, its aim is to support whatever level of attention the viewer cares to bestow in the moment: a passing glance, a more intentional look, or a longer and deeper immersion within the dynamically changing experience of an ambient video world.” – Jim Bizzocchi (http://www.dadaprocessing.com), an artist and Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology.
“my philosophy is that collectors should have a screen devoted to art in their home. It’s not about watching television—it’s about screen-based experiences that are art-related. And it comes down to cost and accessibility, right? You can buy a 46-inch screen today for $400, or you can buy a Mac Mini or a comparable PC that can run Quicktime movies, et cetera, for $500. A devoted system works great if you don’t have an enormous home but have several pieces of video art.
“Of course, this is dependent on the artist being okay with that—they may insist on their art being screened on a specific, single-purpose unit. But more often than not when you buy unframed video, as long as you’re playing it to the right specifications, it’s fine. So you, as a collector, can amass a large amount of work in a single location and experience many, many pieces as you wish. You can really have an incredible range of work within that devoted system. And you can frame it in beautiful ways, with wood frames made for the screen so they have more than a presence. Then you can have a central server to hold and maintain the art. There are so many different ways to do it.
“I’m a huge believer in promoting the integration of new media work into collections, especially in homes that have traditional displays. You buy it because you love it, and the fact that it’s active shouldn’t matter. I think the devoted screen in your home is just one avenue that will become more and more common, especially with art collectors. ” – Bitforms Gallery’s Steven Sacks