About Fang Lu's Work

Yan Xiaoxiao 

Some of Fang Lu’s narrative video artworks seek out possibilities from within the irrational. In her works over the past two years, such irrational settings are often created through the actions of people and food. Her earlier works focused more on popular contemporary mediums and the experience of the body in action. Even in the least narrative of her works (such as My Classmate and Skin), we can see the body performing a lot or a little in front of the camera.

Dealing with food, like Household Rituals (2009) and the similar Rot (2009), the two-channel video Automatic Happening sets out to create a sense of the ritual that is transcendent of reality, even paradoxical, and to place this sense of the ritual into a more chaotic setting.

In an unfinished room, the artist dons a motorcycle helmet as she busies herself with the “culinary arts” at the counter. Meanwhile, an alarm that goes off every minute stops the artist’s actions and leads her into a different behavior. “Culinary arts” here appears with quote marks not only because such actions as cooking high heeled shoes as noodles, painting the hooves of a pig with nail polish or throwing a watermelon stuffed with chicken offal off a ladder appear quite removed from the real task of home cooking, but also because such behavior taking place removed from the scene of reality takes it out of the realm of the “culinary” and into the realm of “art.”

The particular defined rules of the game and the disorderly scene form a kind of tension. The video is shot from two angles, and when screened, the two channels are offset by a few seconds. These elements, along with the artist’s hurried appearance add to the dramatic effect. This absurd drama is in turn built on the wastefulness and overall senselessness of the artist’s behavior. The food items of various colors and the nail polish, high heeled shoes and other objects that seem to suddenly intrude into the scene all become tools in this scenario, losing most of their original characteristics. Fang Lu’s preference for long camera shots, especially unbroken ones, assists the viewer in establishing their recognition of the overall scenario.

Fang Lu once mentioned the influence of American multimedia artist Bruce Nauman in her decision to begin working in video. Nauman’s view of the studio as the scene of art paved
the way, to a certain extent, for Fang Lu’s early creations. Though her later works increasingly extended beyond the studio to hotels, homes, social environments and other “scenes,” the continued importance of the studio in her construction of films is still quite apparent. The scene of Automatic Happening is actually her still-unfinished studio and domicile. The muddling of its spatial properties is like a parallel system outside of reality that she attempts to convey within her artworks.

Translated by Jeff Crosby

“Accidental Message: Art is Not a System, Not a World”, The 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen, 2012) 

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