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 Art Studio is very pleased to announce their participation of Jamaica Flux 2016 with current project Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization. Given the limited funding, space and time (Opening on April 16, 2016), the collaborative is planning to present part of the multimedia project, specifically, an indoor video installation, and a mobile phone augmented reality installation along Jamaica Avenue in Queens, NY during the art festival. More details will be released soon.

multimedia art, multidisciplinary art

Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization (Video Installation view). Lily & Honglei Art Studio

JamaicaFlux Artist Announcement Press Release

For Immediate Release Contact: Cathy Hung, Executive Director. Phone: 718-658-7400 x 124 E-mail:

Announcing the Artists invited to Jamaica Flux: Workspaces & Windows 2016

July 17, 2015, Jamaica, Queens — Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) is extremely pleased to announce the artists who are commissioned to create new work for Jamaica Flux: Workspaces & Windows 2016 scheduled to open for six weeks from April 16 through May 28, 2016 in Downtown Jamaica, Queens, NY.

The artists are: Hannes Bend, Adam Brent, Aurora De Armendi, Ayana Evans, Nicholas Fraser, Samantha Holmes, Anna Lise Jensen, Sue Jeong Ka, Kakyoung Lee, Rejin Leys, Shervone Neckles, Jeffrey Allen Price, Dominique Sindayiganza, Stan Squirewell, Thiago Szmrecsanyi, Ed Woodham, and three artist collectives; Ellie Irons and Dan Phiffer, John H. Locke and Joaquin Reyes, and Lily & Honglei.

Jamaica Flux: Workspaces & Windows 2016 is a large-scale exhibition of research-driven, site-specific art, installed in everyday areas along Jamaica Avenue. The project reconnects JCAL with the community it is located in. It also provides artists with resources to produce their experimental art in public realms, actively engaging with community members to combat the negative public perceptions of Southeast Queens through art, discussion, and meaningful community involvement. It also increases the public’s access to contemporary art and makes it an important and integral part of daily life in our neighborhood.

Over the next few months, the invited commissioned artists will visit the community multiple times to explore the community’s specific qualities. They will then create a work of public art or performances based on their research outcomes. The thematic areas of interests that the artists intend to explore include the urban conditions of Jamaica, Queens; public interaction and engagement; community empowerment; environmental concerns and wellness.

JCAL thanks the members of the selection panel: Rhonda Binda, Kalia Brooks, Heng-Gil Han, Cathy Hung, Andrew M. Manshel, Greg Mays, Simone Price, Juan Carlos Salinas, and Emily Schwartz.

Jamaica Flux: Workspaces & Windows 2016 is generously supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Greater Jamaica Development Association, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts.

Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) receives ongoing operating support from the Mayor’s Office, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Programmatic support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Queens Delegation of the New York City Council, and Councilman I. Daneek Miller. Foundation support from Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Corporate support from the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, and many individuals and volunteers.

JamaicaFlux Artist Announcement Press Release