Duruo Wang: (The Title Is Waiting To Be Named)

20 minute presentation for AEROPONIC ACTS  - growing roots in air, DAI's 3 day marathon of lecture-perfomance acts, May 2019.

(The abstract is still waiting for concrete details to be written and processed through the Chinese Input Method and translated into English before being generated...)

Rachel O’Reilly, Anselm Franke, Laura Harris and Hypatia Vourloumis responded to the question:

How can one decode memories?

Report by Ayesha Hameed:

Two figures sit back to back on the floor. One faces a screen on which a video scrolls through Google Earth satellite images of China. They read a first-person narrative in English about an encounter with a photo album and museum; images of different terrains appear on the screen. The other figure faces the audience, offering some translation in Mandarin. Dates flash up on the screen as the English-speaker reads out days and months, giving it the effect of a live diary. The same words are translated from English to Mandarin and projected. The elaborate architectonics give the projection the quality of a screen top capture. A technical glitch is humorously brought into the performance to reveal that this is in fact live, as the narrative moves onto the history of insurrection, landscapes and the speaker’s family relations mapped onto the history of nationalism in China. H-i-s-t-o-r-y spelled out mirrors the fragmentation of the presentation that explores writing, gender, capitalism, labour, generational shifts, loss due to migration and language, and China’s landscape. 

Hypatia Vourloumis returned to the artist’s question on decoding memories and asked: ‘Does Google Earth help with decoding memories?’ She appreciated how stateless life was highlighted, and that it is lived by strong women, which in turn is appropriated by the state, concluding: ‘The presentation foregrounded feminist knowledge, which was manifest as well in the doubled bodied and voice. It explores how performances of national subjectivity are brought into being by colonial powers – histories decoded through different kinds of women’s history, smells, touches.’

Rachel O’Reilly said, ‘the decisions to bring these elements together is very thought through.’ She thought the use of Google Maps was not affectively successful, but that the collage of images was very interesting. ‘The presentation’s bearing witness to historical transformations is very competently done,’ she said. ‘It is a fine-grained reading through an undramatic performance. It was a confident performance, that was equally confident in the audience’s understanding.’ 

Laura Harris thought the presentation resonated with James Scott’s works – but were more fine-grained. ‘It has resonances with the film 24 City’s [dir. Jia Zhangke, 2008] attention to Chinese landscapes,’ she said. ‘It gives us enough information to follow but is full of so many layers of signification. The issue of translation is really interesting, as is the tracing of Wang’s own process of leaving and returning.’ 

The presentation’s strength lay in its potential to combine an analytical topographic stance that moves between insides and outsides,’ said Anselm Franke. ‘It raises the question of what happens to a mental topography with variations of terrain. The presentation does not give way to a potential grandiosity, instead it remains specific to its focus.’