The discussion took place after the exhibition "field verb" by the artist fansy in sesame space. As the architect/artist Iris Lacoudre  prepared her final presentation of the IFP residency project "public place", we also invited curator li shan Alessandro Rolandi to join the two artists.

Dai Xiyun: Even though there was no expected sunset on the opening day, the rainy weather created an interesting and different atmosphere. What do you think of the relationship between your works and the surrounding environment? 


Fan Xi: I regarded the whole space as moving images. The relationship between people and space, matter (material) and images is dynamic and constantly changing, appearing and subsiding. Therefore, all images are produced through moves, created by interventions from visitors and material in the space. Simultaneously, the work as a whole forms a visual transformation of daily-life material via interventions of time (materialized by light). I see these interventions as a process of image-making. It is an intact but insufficient experience, as well as a test full of uncertain testabilities. The sunrise and the sunset are special moments of time variation; they are also clear observable nodes of visual alterations. Therefore, we scheduled the opening time to be consonant with the sunset. Although it was raining, it was quite lucky that the wet weather added another layer to the “scene”.


Dai Xiyun: So are the space, image, and environment factors affecting “the scene” ? Does “the scene” mean a field that bears these dynamic relations? How did you come up with the exhibition title The Scene, Being? Does “being” here relate to your previous project All Beings?  


A SENCE BEING exhibition site Fan Xi


Fan Xi: I would say this title is a bit neutral, simple and has no advanced guidance. It leaves more space to the exhibition site, and the site could be spontaneous and temporal. I hope the site would be full of invisible and recessive forces. Besides meaning a field, the “scene” also means a series of moving images, in which visitors’ actions keep shaping these visible or invisible relationships. Visitors’ engagements with material and spatial environment are maintained in this “scene”. I use “being” instead of literal “verb” in order to emphasize the internal and external performativities—I call them dynamics. In most of my previous projects, I used only the image itself to play with these recessive relationships. But for this time, I’d like to cast aside the pressure of making a proper work for an exhibition, rather, I hope to simply capture the state that constantly moves, to hint at those recessive relationships, each day (based on light changes) as a cycle. All Beings is about sharing and synchronization in dynamic temporalities and environments. You can observe in the works that I use unstable flashlight to intensify details of daily life and actually they are things that we normally won’t give a glimpse. These details are always present and their vitality can be liberalized by doing so. The “scene” here is a kind of state, it could be casual, intimate, intense, joyful, subtle or dull; could be real or imaginative; being divisive or alienated at a certain point.        


Dai Xiyun: It was a busy and rainy night when Alessandro visited the exhibition, while Iris later waited alone in the exhibition space from sunny daytime to the sunset. Could you share your different impressions with us?    


Alessandro Rolandi: I think the installation in the first room worked very well. Instead of thinking about the work itself—images of different trees digitally pieced together forming an image of a giant tree, projected on layers of various materials—I enjoy the openness of the space, the moist weather and how the artwork works with the weather. Its existence becomes part of the environment—a cloudy and rainy evening. It also reminds me "romantic" and "symbolistic" atmosphere. Of course, here I do not mean the literal or cheesy understanding of the two words, but the traditional art historical concepts. The fact that it is not a real tree but a “candlelight” modernizes it, a contemporary “spleen”. Nature has been digitalized. Doors and windows of the seemingly abandoned building open all night, people can enter and spend or consume some melancholic or intimate time. I can link the experience to Baudelaire, Keats, Hubert Robert, the British Graveyard poetry and the French symbolists. These are some western references and specifically from my own subjective reading about the work, yet it was what I genuinely sensed there. Perhaps the photographs in the corridors could not be appreciated enough in this setting, but with the lights, they are also interesting.


A SENCE BEING exhibition site Fan Xi


Dai Xiyun: In my impression, your setting possesses the whole field with a rhythm of shattering and re-converging. For instance, in the space at the front where images of the tree are projected onto construction boards and reflective mirrors, the refracted and reflected light creates multiple layers, and is scattered about in the space, occupying and even overflowing the exhibition space in a lithe way. The warm light shone through neighbors’ frosted glass also becomes a part of the “scene”. However, in the narrow space at the back, dozens of black and white photos are assembled to form a shadowy block under the dim light. Seemingly, this dark corner takes in and swallows all active light in the front space. Light connects two separate spaces, while they confront one another with their weights.


Fan Xi: Maybe when we look at the form of the work as a whole, images, light, and materials vary a lot in the front space, creating a spatial experience extended out of 2D planes. But in the space behind, there is only a set of photos, which seems to go back to two dimensions again. I consider more on how these elements function as a whole, and focus more on the process of transformation: at night, light will make a spatial arrangement out of the photos in the narrow corridor and the construction materials in the front space. It is all about alterations, or you can say it is a reminder, a reminder of temporality. In a broader sense, the exhibition is also a part of the temporal flow. When one moves out from the exhibition site, the exhibition will be diluted, blurred, and then becomes uncertain after clashing with the next experience or things. It may become an encounter that nothing happens. But such changes that follow are very consistent, just like our life experience.


Iris Lacoudre: Reflecting on my own experience of the exhibition, I am quite intrigued by the relation between light and material. I really like the light reflecting out of the exhibition space, it intrigued me and attracted me in. As well as the outdoor light that you bring into the narrow interior space behind. It reminds me the street light streams through windows. I am also very interested in the material you use for this set of installation, the kind of blue plastic construction material. Why did you think of using this specific material?


Fan Xi: I studied sculpture in art academy, therefore I often went to building materials markets. In the beginning, I was just looking for a kind of material that obstructs projected images, but should also be common and functional. It’s better to have various possibilities on form, plasticity, color, and plane, and also can be used to build and form space. All these specialties will elicit many imaginations, at least for me.


A SENCE BEING exhibition site Fan Xi


Dai Xiyun: I remember that when you visited the yard for the first time, you wandered in the courtyard for quite a long time, made many sketches. Why did you give up the idea of using the outdoor courtyard, but only use the exhibition space?


Fan Xi: To make it more concentrated. The work now has already extended its content out into the courtyard. The mirrors reflect the content of the work and the indoor light onto the outdoor windows and walls. The idea of setting something outside now seems too deliberate. I’m satisfied with this decision, it’s more natural. Light is always there—the sunshine in the daytime, and the lamplight that diffuses from the space into the courtyard at night. It should just be a reminder, and easy to find out when you are in the yard. This reminder doesn’t need to be emphasized, as it will disappear when doing so. I feel it has a much more comfortable relation now. 


Iris Lacoudre: Have you ever thought about materializing this work at a construction site where the materials are broadly used? Where these materials are very common? It could be another way to look at them. 


Fan Xi: This project is developed mainly around the changes of time, the starting and ending points are not of the material. So I only picked up their inherent properties of obstruction and reflection, and didn’t intervene more to stretch the possibilities of such material. I guess I won’t try the project at a construction site as you mentioned. For me it will lose something, it also involves a risk to be destroyed, or will intervene the original order of the context. Perhaps I will try more outdoor possibilities in the future, in some public space like a parking lot.


Dai Xiyun: Iris’ presentation at IFP, the Common Places, is also about using materials to intervene and change the dynamic relationship between people and space, but she explores this idea in her own artistic language as an architect. In contrast to the “romantic” and abstract "scene" Fan Xi created, Iris's involvement with space has a more socially-engaged meaning, more like an observer. Iris's "scene" is a place, and space for the other.


Fan Xi: Maybe she emphasizes more on physical perception. I have the opposite approach. I turn from the physical perception to abstraction, and then realize the abstraction in a concrete space.


Iris Lacoudre  exhibition site 


Iris Lacoudre: Daily materials and daily objects. What I like about your exhibition is the way you use common materials that we see everyday, somehow as tiny monuments that we ignore if we don’t pay attention. Regarding the exhibition I am preparing in the actual “common place” of IFP Studio, the space itself actually creates collisions: it is not a white box, and the structure of the architecture itself is very present. It (the site-specific installation) will be something made with paper, the tracing paper that we use for architectural drawings. It will be a quite “light” intervention in the space, using paper in its multiple forms, from newspaper, to models, drawings and tracing paper. I was vacillating whether I should extend the paper installation into the courtyard, or just keep it in the studio space, as the common place of the hutong is actually the courtyard. Your explanation of why you didn’t set up things outdoor has helped me find my answer. These are the photos I took during my residency here, which are some ordinary corners around the hutong area. I call them “tiny monuments” and made a newspaper from this inquiry, as a daily object. 


Fan Xi: I also make booklets, as images have another dimensional order on paper, the editing process is a bit like rebuilding a “space”. In the newspaper, you enlarge some of the daily-life corners, they visually occupy and manipulate, creating a visual and psychological common space. The material transformation from a physical space to a visual plane is also very interesting. I also like the models in your studio that are made of felt-like paper, an unforced and natural material. I only knew after your introduction that they are based on houses in hutongs, and you transform them into paper-made imaginary space. They look like accessible space, a 3D map. In fact, people seem to be able to walk through, but everywhere is also blocked and limited, a bit like the traffic system in your newspaper.


Iris Lacoudre: This series of small paper models comes from the intention to work with "accidental spaces", as unexpected and uncontrollable spaces. These models distort, adapt, and disturb a given system, an existing structure structure. They invite to think architecture as an open structure, a common ground on which accidents could happen.

I like what you mentioned about scale, about feelings of the materials.


Alessandro Rolandi: Your "accidental spaces" remind me of Aldo van Eyck, a Dutch architect, who designed playgrounds for children in small public spaces in the city, with very simple geometric shapes, even as minimal as a few curved lines, but offer great joy to children.


Fan Xi: You use a very systematic approach to represent irregular buildings, it’s a bit like an "accident." Imagine if these "accidental spaces" can be materialized and achieved, they will have a sense of losing control, and the relationship between people and building will be more complicated. I have already started imagining the situation that people live in this runaway space.


Iris Lacoudre  exhibition site 

 Photos by Sun Shi

Fan Xi

Artist, living and working in Beijing. She graduated from the Sculpture Department of Central Academy of Fine Art (Beijing). Her practices mainly develop out of images. Through editing images and materials, she realizes the abstract concepts in concrete space, and considers people as the most important part adding to the missing pieces of the integrated scene.


Dai Xiyun

IFP collective member. She studied exhibition design at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) and holds a MA in fine art from Dutch Art Institute (DAI). From 2017. She develops her art practices through writing, performance and curating. 

Iris Lacoudre 

Architect, living and working between Paris and Stockholm. She studied at the School of Architecture of Marne-La-Vallée, TU in Berlin and Konstfack in Stockholm. She has been working in different architecture practices, in Berlin (LIN), Tokyo (Atelier Bow Wow), Stockholm (Arrhov Frick), Paris (Bruther). Working across fields, her practice is questioning how we live in a given environment, looking at domestic behaviors. As a nomadic practice, her work inhabits the place in which she works and lives, with which she starts a conversation.


Alessandro Rolandi

Born in Pavia; living and working in Beijing since 2003. Studied Chemistry, Experimental Theatre and film-making, History of Art. He has been living and working in Beijing since 2003, as a multimedia and performance artist, director, curator, researcher, writer and lecturer. His work focuses on social intervention and relational dynamics to expand the notion of art practice beyond existing structures, spaces and hierarchies and engage directly with reality in multiple ways. He is the founder, in 2011, and director of the Social Sensibility Research & Development Department at Bernard Controls in Beijing and Paris and one of the founding partners of the Social Sensibility Research Institute (SoSense).