Lily & Honglei, asian art, shadow play

Image by Lily & Honglei Art Studio

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.”

Lily & Honglei, Chinese shadow puppetry, contemporary art, Asian Art

Research presentation of Shadow Play at Jamaica Flux 2016, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, NY. Photography courtesy of Lily & Honglei

Lily & Honglei, Asian Art, Chinese shadow puppetry, Chinese contemporary art

Research exhibition at Jamaica Flux 2016, JCAL. Photography courtesy of Lily & Honglei

Lily & Honglei, Chinese shadow puppetry, urbanization of China, Asian art, Chinese media art

Shadow Play, VR screenshot by Lily & Honglei Art Studio

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.

Lily & Honglei, Jamaica Flux, New York artist

Catalog of Jamaica Flux 2016

For more exhibition info and project updates, visit website




Dragon’s Pearl (image below), the augmented reality artwork created by Lily & Honglei Art Studio, will be on view in Lugano, Italy. 


Dragon's Pearl, AR art by Lily & Honglei Art Studio

For more info, visit



Since 2011, Lily & Honglei Art Studio has participated “(Un)Seen Sculptures,” the annual exhibition of Augmented Reality art in varied cities in Australia. The multimedia event is presented by dLux MediaArts, “a for-purpose organization with over thirty years experience in supporting artists working with emerging technologies at the intersection of art and science,” and curated by Warren Armstrong. Curatorial Statement can be found on this page:

Responding to the curator’s invitation, Lily & Honglei is presenting their recent work “Shadow Pavilion” in the upcoming (Un)Seen Sculptures 2015 exhibition.

Lily & Honglei, Augmented Reality art, new media artist from China, Climate Change, Shadow Play, #NYFAFellows30, #CreativeCapital

The Shadow Pavilion, AR installation by Lily & Honglei Art Studio. Medium: traditional Chinese shadow puppetry motif, virtual reality simulation, and augmented reality app on mobile device.

Artist Statement
The Shadow Pavilion is an augmented reality installation integrating traditional folk art form, specifically Chinese shadow puppetry, with digital imaging technologies. On one hand, the work visualizes cultural heritage losses as a result of gigantic engineering projects in China, on the other hand, it comments on the increasing flood risk caused by climate change. The AR installation is an integral part of Lily & Honglei’s ongoing project “Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China.
For more info about (Un)Seen Sculptures exhibition, please visit:

Elegy of the Middle Kingdom is a 16-minute, 4-chapter animation made using the medium of oil painting. The film juxtaposes figures from Chinese history and folklore with contemporary social commentary, creating a panoramic insight into the chaotic transformations that have ravaged Chinese society for the past three decades.

Lily & Honglei, media artist from China, media art

Video still of Chapter IV. Peony Pavilion, oil on paper, Lily & Honglei

For more info, visit project webpage

Lily & Honglei Art Studio is very glad to have the unique opportunity contributing to the community in Queens, NY during Jamaica Flux 2016 festival curated by Heng-Gil Han.

Artists Selected For Jamaica Flux 2016

The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning announced the names of 19 artists and artist collectives commissioned to create site-specific artwork for the Jamaica Flux: “Workspaces & Windows 2016.”

The program is a large public art project organized and presented by JCAL, a community-based arts organization in Downtown Jamaica. “Workspaces & Windows 2016” is the fourth iteration of Jamaica Flux. The program successfully mounted pieces in Jamaica in 2004, 2007 and 2010.

The group of artists, ranging from all walks of life, include: Hannes Bend, Adam Brent, Aurora De Armedi, Ayana Evans, Nicholas Fraser, Samantha Holmes, Anna Lise Jensen, Sue Jeong Ka, Kakyoung Lee, Rejin Lys, Shervone Neckles, Jeffrey Allen Price, Dominique Sindayiganza, Stand Squirewell, Thiago Szmrecsanyi, Ed Woodham and Ellie Ironss and Dan Phiffer; John H. Locke and Joaquin Reyes; and Lily & Honglei.

Artists were selected by a panel which included Jamaica Center Business Improvement District Executive Director Rhonda Binda, founder of “A Better Jamaica” Greg Mays, Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District Executive Director Simone Price and others.

24-Jamaica-FluxNot confined by gallery walls, Jamaica Flux is a contemporary public art project in which visual and performance art are displayed at a variety of locations along Jamaica Avenue. The locations – banks, stores, restaurants, street corners, phone booths, parks and other public spaces – are as diverse as the art. JCAL’s presentation of Jamaica Flux aims to challenge traditional assumptions about where art should be displayed and explores the relationship between art, commerce, urban renewal and community.

This year, Jamaica Flux is expanding its focus to emphasize public engagement and contemporary art as a vehicle to examine and discuss solutions to critical issues in the community. The locations of the finished multidisciplinary and interactive works are not yet available, but those who are interested can receive updates at

The project offers artists resources to help them produce experimental art in public realms, engages community members on ways to combat negative public perceptions of Southeast Queens through art, and crates a forum for discussion on meaningful community involvement. It also aims to increase the public’s access to contemporary art and makes it an important and integral part of daily life in Southeast Queens.

For more than 40 years, JCAL has presented and supported the work of emerging artists, women artists and artists of color in Jamaica. JCAL has been a cultural resource in the community and to all artists in New York City. Serving more than 25,000 people annually, a central part of JCAL’s mission is to encourage participation in the arts and contribute to the cultural enrichment of Queens.

To follow along with the artists’ journeys and receive real-time updates, like Jamaica Flux 2016 on Facebook.

– See more at:

Press Release


Korea art forum, lily & hongleiDear Friends and Supporters of Korea Art Forum,
On behalf of the participating artists and KAF, I am very pleased to announce

KOREA. Contemporary Art from South and North Korea

5:30 – 6:00: Opening Remarks by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Director of Asian and Asian American Studies Institute / Followed by an Introduction to and Dialogue with the Curator of the exhibition, Heng-Gil Han
6:00 – 7:00: Gallery Tour of Exhibition with Curator and Artists attending the Opening
7:00 – 7:30: Intermission
7:30 – 8:20: “DRUM KOREA” Percussion Performance / Chamber Stage – Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts

2132 Hillside Road, Unit 3104, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-3104.

“KOREA” presents work by South and North Korean artists in juxtaposition along with work by international artists. South Korean artists include Ildan Choi, Sungho Choi, Henry Kim, Myong Hi Kim, Tcha-sup Kim, Kakyoung Lee, Kelvin K. Park, Yooah Park, and Sungsook Setton while North Korean artists are Chang-ho Choi, Gye-keun Choi, Chang-mo Chung, In-soo Pang, Chang Ri, Young Sunu, and others. International artists include Nick Bonner, Debby Branch, and an artist collective, Lily and Honglei. To enrich the context, the exhibition also collects some items from North Korea such as art related books, posters, and stamps. The exhibition does not attempt to intervene in any political matters. Focused only on art, the exhibition is a comparative study that attempts not only to explore arts from the two Koreas, but also to provoke a critical reflection on current international exhibitions that, driven by the force of the global art market, stylize contemporary art, which in turn increasingly becomes homogeneous in appearance. Still, the exhibition opens up a philosophical discourse on the possibility of writing about a deep continuity of perpetually altering contemporary art that advances by the logic of contradiction. The exhibition sets a geographical limit to its investigation of the arts from Korea, which is not to promote Korean nationalism, but to examine a thermocline in contemporary art by looking at the fascinating narratives and frameworks of art from Korea.

To enhance the public experience of the exhibition, the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts specially offers “Drum Korea” as a part of the exhibition’s Opening program, presenting a set of Korean percussion music. The repertoire includes Moon Gut (a traditional ritual music that performers play when entering the stage), Jindo Bukchoom (a Korean traditional drum dance performed by farmers), Samdo Sul Changgo (a percussion music widely spread in southern South Korea), and Samdo Samulnori (an ensemble of four percussion instruments). The concert is performed by the New York Korean Traditional Marching Band, a professional Korean traditional percussion group based in Flushing, New York. Members of the band include Chunseung Lee, Sangyul Lee, and Maggie Kim.

The exhibition and its programs are fruits of yearlong collaboration with the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University Connecticut. The exhibition, an improved edition of KOREA that was previously presented in 2014 at the FiveMyles in Brooklyn, NY, will run through December 11, 2015.


Professor Cathy Schlund-Vials, Director
Asian and Asian American Studies Institute / CLAS
University of Connecticut
354 Mansfield Road, Unit 1091
Storrs, CT 06269-1091
PH: (860) 486-9412

Rodney Rock, Director
Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts
University of Connecticut
2132 Hillside Road, Unit-3104
Storrs, CT 062679-3104
PH: (860)486-1983

Heng-Gil Han at
PH: 347-840-1142

-from, Heng-Gil Han, the director of Korea Art Forum

Lily & Honglei art studio is invited to participate the exhibition with video ‘Moon’-

Lily & Honglei, media artist from China

Moon still 1, Chinese ink painting on rice paper, 24x36in. by Lily & Honglei. 2012

In the video Moon, the lunar phases are looked upon through a poetic lens. In Far Eastern culture, such phases symbolize the elusiveness of fate as well as both the separation and reunion of loved ones. By setting original ink painting works in motion, Moon presents a natural phenomenon in a manner that unveils an introspective human world – an approach is profoundly inspired by traditional Chinese poetry and art. A reflection upon humanity, conflict, loss, and hope is drawn through space and time as a dreamscape of inner emotions merged with the natural world. The film is comprised of a series of Chinese ink paintings on rice paper and could be projected on a variety of different surfaces such as a solid wall or a still pond of water. Both indoors and outdoors environments are fit within the scale of this project. (2014 © Lily & Honglei Art Studio. All rights reserved. )

Lily & Honglei, Creative Capital, media art, Chinese new media artist

Lily & Honglei’s presentation at EMPAC theater, RPI campus in New York, 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.”

Lily & Honglei, Creative Capital, media artist

Creative Capital 2015 presentations at EMPAC Theater, Rensselaer Polytech Institute, NY

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.

Lily & Honglei, media art, new media art from china, creative capital award

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!


Visit Creative Capital blog for more info:

Lily & Honglei, Creative Capital 2015

and on Instagram: