Critics’ Picks

Li Ming, XX, 2009, still from a color video, 5 minutes 17 seconds.

Li Ming, XX, 2009, still from a color video, 5 minutes 17 seconds.


Li Ming

Platform China|站台中国
No. 319-1 East End Art (A), CaoChangDi Village, Chaoyang District|朝阳区草场地村319号艺术东区内
November 14–December 27, 2009

Eleven videos and sporadic accoutrements litter the floor of this exhibition by the emerging artist Li Ming. A television, cast in the bushes outside the gallery entrance, screens Back Garden, 2008, in which security guards, recurring characters in the artist’s vignettes, romp around the gardens of a residential compound in unintelligible acts of “play.”

The folly continues indoors, where the atmosphere turns to one of extreme irrationality and even perturbation. Li’s works fall into the category of absurd realism; he sets the parameters for the semi-orchestrated madness and compulsive behaviors in his videos, while the improvisation of his actors who interpret his instructions makes the works fascinating to watch. In the video XX, 2009, two men sit on a stone, writhing as they attempt to exchange shirts; the rule is that their skin must always make contact. More awkward body negotiations and Dionysian revelry follow in Afternoon Happiness, 2008, wherein a group of near-naked boys chase one another through a demolished building, smear one another with cream, and then try to lick it off.

The strongest works in the exhibition display Li’s understated production techniques, which do not undermine his ability to captivate viewers. Recurring characters, plants, and unorthodox, sexually charged human contact are just a few elements in his latent symbolic language. An exploration of the boundary between agony and ecstasy is among the most significant leitmotifs here.