by Senior editor & artistic director Lanfranco Aceti, editor & curator Özden Şahin, associate editor Andrea Ackerman

Uncontainable – ISEA2011 Istanbul: Some Thoughts After The Fact

When talking about ISEA2011 Istanbul one of the things I believe will remain as a legacy of the symposium is its magnitude. ISEA2011 was the most attended to date with almost 1500 attendees, the last count we had was of 1489, and it had over 100 artists – the ones we could account for – who participated and engaged with the city in multiple ways, authorized and non.

Manifest.AR is an international artists group working with emergent forms of mobile augmented reality as interventionist public art, using this new art medium to transform public space and challenge institutional structures. Geolocating 3D computer graphic artworks at selected sites, they respond to and overlay the physical locations with new meanings, pushing the boundaries between the real and the virtual.

Collectively and individually, Manifest.AR members exhibit and intervene around the world. After their pathbreaking intervention at MoMA NY in 2010 they set their sights on the Venice Biennial, creating the artworks that are mirrored in the Kasa Gallery exhibition „Not There“ during the ISEA Istanbul Festival. Participating artists are: Tamiko Thiel, John Craig Freeman, Lily and Honglei, Will Pappenheimer, Naoko Tosa, Mark Skwarek, Sander Veenhof, John Cleater.


Work link:

Lily & Honglei new media art, Chinese new media artist, video artist Lily & Honglei, new york artist


Categories: Curate NYC. borough: Queens. Art Medium: Film/Video.

The above is a still image of the  video Tripitaka,  view it here:

Utilizing animation and traditional oil painting, Tripitaka is a silent short film reflecting on individual’s journey seeking enlightenment, as well as the issue of religious freedom in contemporary China. Inspired by Chinese classic Journey to the West, a fictionalized account of the legendary pilgrimage of Buddhist monk Tripitaka and his three disciples-the Monkey King, Pigsy and Sandy-traveling to India to obtain sacred texts, the work metaphorically depicts ordeals of individuals journeying towards enlightenment. As Han Chinese themselves, artists Lily and Honglei deeply concern the religious repressions and ethnic hostility experienced by Tibetan people on a day-to-day basis; Tripitaka is created as a result. Meanwhile, the storyline of Tripitaka is intentionally designed to resonate biblical tales, insinuating the universality of religions.


Lily & Honglei’s video series ‘Fourth Cry of the Monkey’ will be included in ‘Locating the Sacred’ Festival curated by Asian American Art Alliance. New York Art Residency and Studio (NARS) Foundation Gallery will host the exhibition in September 2012.

Fourth Cry of the Monkey

Medium: Digital Animation, Oil painting, and Soundtrack
Duration: 24-minute
Year of Completion: 2008 – 2011

Artist Statement

Fourth Cry of the Monkey, originally, is the title of a Chinese opera written in the 16th century, meaning ‘grief and sorrow beyond expression.’ Its narrative structure and symbolic approach inspire Lily & Honglei to produce this animated film with four chapters reassembling popular Chinese folk tales about ordinary people’s spiritual journeys.

Still image of animated film ‘The Fourth Cry of the Monkey’

Chapter I. Three Gorges (三峡), reflects the world’s largest hydropower project, Three Gorges Dams’ social, cultural and environmental impacts. In the film, chilling cries of a monkey echo above mountain and river, as if bewailing the destiny of the soon-to-be submerged landscape. On a cliff, the naked ‘mad drummer,’ famous confucian scholar Mi Heng, is cursing those in power with drumming sound. In the last scene, Lady White Snake watches a town collapsing in the earthquake, and leaves. This chapter addresses loss of physical and spiritual homeland.

Still image of animated film ‘Butterfly Lovers’

Chapter II. Butterfly Lovers (梁祝), reinterprets one of the most popular love stories of China. Set in a contemporary setting, the lovers, dressed in traditional Chinese opera costume, roam Manhattan at night. The two protagonists repeat scenarios from the original story such as “Seeing off for Eighteen Miles” and “Meeting at the Balcony.” With dreamlike dislocation, the film depicts the characters’ isolation and vulnerability in their spiritual exile.

Still image of animated film ‘Peony Pavilion’

Chapter III. Peony Pavilion(牡丹亭), is inspired by a popular traditional Chinese opera visualizing the revival of soul. ‘The young maiden in the story, Du Liniang, falls in love with a scholar whom she’s only met once in a dream and dies longing for him. The scholar, Liu Mengmei, happens to be a real person and through sheer accident ends up staying in her town. Discovering Du’s self-portrait, Liu immediately admires her beauty. Eventually, Liu meets Du’s ghost, disinters her body, and she comes back to live,’ J. Lau summarizes the plot in ‘A Chinese Love Story from Beyond the Grave.’ In the animation, Lily & Honglei are interested in presenting the contrast between ancient spirit of the characters and the materialistic environment of the contemporary world. The soundtrack includes famous verses from the original play:
‘Where is the pleasant day and pretty night? Who can enjoy contentment and delight?’
‘As innocent as flowers, unaware of the time sweeping past like a river.’

Still image of animated film ‘Peacock Flies Southeast’

Chapter IV. Southeast Fly the Peacocks (孔雀东南飞), is the final chapter inspired by one of the most beloved Chinese traditional poems, that depicts a tragedy of a couple committing suicides for love and dignity against the power. Our reinterpretation intertwines imagery of the ancient story and 1989 Tiananmen Student Protest, highlighting everyday people’s spiritual struggles and persistence. The soundtrack is a popular children song in Communist China, with lyric glorifying the party’s leadership and praising it has brought Chinese people happy life, in strong contrast with the visual component.

Overall, the animated film unfolds ancient stories in a contemporary setting, and is intended to reveal everlasting meaning of beautiful Chinese folk tale.


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The Festival | 12-23 September 2012

“Locating the Sacred” is a twelve-day, twenty-event festival coordinated by the Asian American Arts Alliance (a4) that brings together artists and spaces in New York for creative explorations of the “sacred.” The festival showcases the diversity and talent of the Asian American community, which now constitutes more than 1 million people in New York (13 percent of the population) and is the most rapidly growing cultural group in the city. The artists will connect with space hosts—from museums to schools to churches—to create events together. The result of these collaborations will be presented for all New Yorkers to experience. The festival aims to promote artists as agents of change, demonstrating the power of art and culture to unleash imagination, break down barriers, and connect communities together for the greater good. At a time of great turmoil in the world—economic, political, and cultural—the festival provides opportunities to explore what remains sacred in our lives during turbulent times, how we might draw inspiration from each other, and how we can imagine moving forward as a society.

The model of the festival is simple. a4 will produce three pillar events: an opening, a closing, and a panel discussion series. For the other festival events, a4 will act as an umbrella, matching artists with space hosts in an attempt to generate creative collaborations across ethnic, religious, geographic and aesthetic boundaries. These events will benefit from the festivalʼs “stamp”, from underwriting for artist fees of up to $2,000 depending on the scope of the project, and from the exposure from the festival’s citywide PR and marketing campaign. The festival becomes the showcase of more than a dozen collaborations across the city, which we hope will continue long after the festival is over.

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Lily & Honglei’s new animated film The Peony Pavilion, and part of the ongoing project, The Garden Windows: April and May, will be showcased at the Painting Center, fall 2011. Their work is rooted in eastern aesthetic traditions, and conveys deep concerns for humanity in current China’s society.

From Jamaica to ChinaA New Evolution,

curated by Bryan McFarlane

September 6 – October 1, 2011

Opening Reception: September 8th. 2011

The Painting Center

547 West 27th Street, NY 10001

exhibition post card front

Exhibition Postcard Back

An collaborative Augmented Reality project based on our paintings may be included in this show too.

Animated short film ‘The Window – May’:

‘The Window – April’

New animated film inspired by traditional Chinese kunqu Opera, The Peony Pavilion will be premiered as well:

Peony Pavilion from lilyhonglei on Vimeo.

Videorover: Season I – Dec. 17 through May 27

Season I
Curated by Rachel Steinberg
Opening: Friday, December 17, 2010
7-9 PM
Press Preview 6 PM
910 Grand Street, Brooklyn NY 11211

NURTUREart is pleased to present its first ever video exhibition in the new project space: Videorover: Season I curated by Rachel Steinberg, featuring artists: Johannes DeYoung, Andy Cahill, Giana Marie Gambino, Hong-An Truong, Naomi Safran-Hon, Scott Kiernan, Victor Faccinto, Allen Calpe, Brittany Prater, Justin Mata, Yeon Jin Kim, and Lily & Honglei.
Season I of Videorover presents a group of artists who, despite the diversity of their work, are all concerned with the reality disconnect that is specific to four-dimensional media. These artists have each created an alternate dimension where life is filtered through a sieve of creative unconscious and realities are discarded and re-imagined. The videos are an amalgamation of the uncanny, the political and the everyday, presented to us in a variety of animation and editing styles. We see the world through a new set of eyes, a digital dream-scape of rewired sensibilities.

In the past decade, as equipment has become more available and youtube has given fame to any ordinary citizen of the Internet, the world of video has swelled exponentially. It has become an expanding universe where time and space are acknowledged as one entity. Throughout the advances in technology and sophistication of the medium, the compulsion has remained to record and recondition the everyday experience. To encourage and support up-and-coming artists working in this format, NURTUREart is launching a space dedicated solely to showcasing emerging video artists. This selection of videos will run continuously in the space adjacent to the main gallery through the rest of the 2010-2011 exhibition series.

Videorover is made possible by the generosity of the Liebovitz Foundation.

NURTUREart Non-Profit, Inc. is a 501(c)3 registered charitable organization founded in 1997 by George J. Robinson. NURTUREart is committed to nurturing emerging artists and curators through exposure, enrichment and opportunity. It is funded in part by the Leibovitz Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and all the generous supporters of our Annual Benefit. We appreciate their support.

Copyright (C) 2010 NURTUREart Non-Profit, Inc. All rights reserved.

Click image to launch website

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


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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