conceptGenerative video installation/performance; PC/Mac, Max/Jitter, projectors, speakers
Cities in developing Asian countries are being encircled by monotonous housing estates, attempting to satisfy the demand from an ever growing urban population. Shanghai is an often cited mega-city example in this trend. While the marketing communications used to sell these estates often sound flowery, using keywords as garden, luxurious, prosperity, jade, etc., when one passes through these just-completed suburbs using the just-completed elevated metro line, one sees an endless array of greyish housing blocks, in a thin mist of air pollution coming from the still functioning factories, a remainder of the earlier industrialization that is being caught up by urbanization.
Travelling on the metro, every time one looks out of the window, one sees housing blocks, and wonders if it has been one stop, one minute, or ten minutes, since the last time his/her eyes turned towards the landscape passing behind the window. The endless flow of repetitious sameness is overwhelming.
Maybe one has to search for joy in the formal qualities and interferences of the regular patterns passing behind the window. This slightly perverse detachment from reality can start up an imaginative process in which the monochromatic shades and repetitive architectural elements come alive on their own: One can observe the shifting perspectives, the moiré effects caused by overlapping foregrounds, mid-grounds and backgrounds, the thickness of shadows varying with the changing daylight and the softness or hardness of contours varying with the levels of pollution.
Instead of denouncing these suburban non-places as results of a savage capitalism copulating with corrupt socialist utopias, one can embrace them as a three-dimensional drawings, as an abstract yet maybe even more telling representation of aggregate macro-moods emerging from periodically recurrent power discourses.
As one moves through these places, recent micro-memories start to interfere with incoming visual perceptions, creating another, temporal, dimension within which interferences cause the emergence of new superstructures. Constant feelings of déjà vu create a schizophrenic state of mind where one’s pondering whether a scene in front of one’s eyes can be matched with a scene from memory is interrupted by yet another landscape section resembling the scene just recalled.
The doubling of spatial (foreground, mid-ground, background) and temporal (perception, memory, imagination) dimensions is complemented by the other senses, especially within the sonic dimension, where the sameness of visual stimuli is cross-related to the sameness of aural stimuli present in the form of repetitive metro announcements reminding everyone of the next stop, closing doors, and ‘please hold the handrail’.
The video material comes from a specific suburban area in Shanghai, related to the number 61398. In hindsight, it is more a coincidence than a purpose. It could be in fact shot anywhere: A place which seems more like an abstraction of itself than as anything referring to anything else. The eye of the camera saw surfaces of buildings and roads. Sequences from the journey are being layered and repeated, creating a dense mesh of moving structures, an ever-repeating yet never same flow.