in collaboration with Elaine W. Ho
Beijing & Berlin, 2008-2009
Phase i [Beijing]
digital video, 17’16”
公众 (Public) is a short video of a series of gatherings in public space, recorded in various locations around the city of Beijing during the fall of 2008. When a public gathering may be regarded as a threat to the State, what possibilities for engagement do we have in the interstices between a gathering and a crowd or mob? As we observe people waiting for the bus, exercising, hanging out and becoming spectators to the little happenings of the everyday, the distances between bodies become shorter, and the boundaries of personal space begin to blur. A closer look at the density of “the masses”, however, reveals the gestures, glances and words that emerge in the spaces between and around people, and it is here that new narratives begin to unfold.
公众 (Public) was featured at the 2008 Beijing Independent Film Festival organised by the Li Xianting film fund.
Phase ii [Berlin]
installation, interventions in public space
PUBLIC was the first in a series of research projects to be hosted by PROGRAM. Organized as a daily series of experiments, interventions and discourses, PUBLIC aimed to examine the potentiality of latency and open spaces made possible in the relations between individuals and publics.
The PUBLIC project comprised a number of experimental investigations taking part in multiple phases, the first of which began in the Autumn of 2008 in the city of Beijing. There, video documentation of a series of gatherings in public spaces were examined both in context and as an abstraction, and the gestures, passing shapes and micro-scale narratives thus recorded became the first research material of the project.
In this second phase, we came to a Berlin without the density of the multitudinous masses dotted all over Beijing, and the more abstract sense of Berlin’s “scenes” begged the question of social gathering in a very different sense. As the word “participation” seems to be the mot du jour in current art and socio-politics here, the question of the individual in relation to any larger organ becomes more and more relevant. What is repeatedly brought to our attention is the transitive space exemplified by the moment of participation, or the liminality in which individuals in space become groups, collectivities or crowds. While a public seems to rest conditionally upon its manifestation of itself, or a certain self-awareness that engenders its own publicity, these Berlin experiments were more involved at the scale of the latent or indirectly communicated. In this sense, a gathering in public space is regarded from a different set of relationships——relationality as another opening of space, whereby a public is created as a multiplicity of encounters and individual relations—a whole that is not merely the sum of its parts.
PUBLIC activities in Berlin took place between January 22 and February 1, 2009, and included an Opening of Critical Mass, a Warm-Up, a Video-Making, a Reading Group, a Spring Festival, a Multi-Disciplinary Team Talk, an Appointment, a Public Dinner, a Neighbourhood Coffee Break, a Secret Community and an Analysis & Data Processing Session.
See www.programonline.de/public.html for more information.