Plain passages

Fan Xi



I would like to produce an image that indefinitely grows. As I was working on the photographic piece The Tree in 2014, I laid down the fundamental rule of mapping gestures: to map each and every distance-closure, deceleration and suspension. It was the premise regarding the final pictorial outcome, in which every movement and re-placement - or, in short, every change in place - triggers something sensorially; and this change is not limited by time nor space. Eventually I re-assembled the changes, and staged a representation of familiar but unusual experiences. I believe that this is the way in which we truly experience things: it is by no means isolated, is disseminated in other messages, and it is my task to make it possible for the fixed things to grow again. They are familiar and at once strange, you are in it and at once excluded, just like the reality in which we are situated.


For the Ls Living Room made in 2019, I tried to come up with a trace, or a hint: the photograph of the living room was itself a hint, like the beginning of a detective fiction, which unfolds its narrative, tightens its grip as the audience wanders in the living room. You would locate and discover some of the hints and traces of things, but as you are about to conclude something, you would be interrupted by another.


The installation on site resembled the setting in the photograph: naturally presented but unusual in appearance and essence. The walls in relation to the ground were off; the lightings went on and off as the audience moved from one spot to another; the candle on the crooked table casually burned itself, by itself. Demonstrating the differences between two apparently identical portraits; hanging on the wall an image of a clock that tells no time; placing an outdoor plant indoors, and placing beyond the large glass in the exhibition another identical plant Just when you think that you may have already made your exit, you would encounter yet again a plateful of fruits, excessive in quantity, overwhelming the container - just like you, overwhelming the space.


The installation on site was imagined as a flat photo of a scene. And I wanted the image to become alive and animate as soon as you leave, and become new hints and traces within the audience.


The audience is indeed an integral part of my work. I want to establish communication with people directly through the work. This is critical: they are the immediate participants, and are also the creators of the work, who have the final say. Therefore, you can say that my work is incomplete, or is presently in progress.



In the Summer of 2019, I was involved in the offshore artist residency program, and went to the island of Pulau Dinawan, Malaysia. Unlike many other islands in the region, that island was largely undeveloped and for the most part wild, naturally. There were no more than 20 people, and they were hired by the one who owns the island for infrastructural construction projects. I had a plan for a film before I left for it: get a young man, and ask him to build a house above the sea.


After spending a week there, I found the ideal host for the house-to-be: Saiful, a high school student who was working there for the Summer vacation, and also a faithful Muslim. Almost everyone on the island were Islamic, but Saiful was almost the only one who still observed the ancient disciplines. Shy, not talkative at all. In the month that followed in which we got to spent time together for the film, we always wrote each other to make appointments. Because of the language barrier, I could only greet and interact with others with a friendly smile, anyway. The island was a pure existence about nature and human. Same couple of guys doing the same jobs everyday, having the same food, lugging their ankles bitten by fire ants that day. The only things that were different from one day to another were the sunrises, waves and sunsets.


This is a micro projection of eternal return, it can tease out the most primitive, beautiful association - the association with nature and human - and nothing else.


In accordance with my initial plan, I finished on the island shooting for two video works: one is L, in which the young man builds a house above the sea, and eventually has it washed away; The other is 1717’’, the documentation of an indefinite journey in the forest. These are two cycles, one physical, one psychological. Some stories are bland, plain and boring, some perpetually circular. Some hopes are just hopes. In the most tangible progress, we connect and forget.


At the Guangdong Museum of Art, there are these two video works, and a puzzle formed by an accumulation of plant images, Temptation. I think, the question of when to sail - a question that desires an object - cannot be anymore common. It is a question that allows the possibility of no answer, but also pulls and brings out myriad traces, weaving and painting kinetic scenes. Any one of these scenes might not be necessary, and is a trap or a temptation. If I am indeed the one who can present those plain passages, then whoever is present is the one who can gather things together and brings about completion.