Li Binyuan:
Social Behaviours

Li Binyuan explores physicality, chance, play and social values through actions, film works and performances that intervene in the social fabric of everyday Chinese society. The tone of Li Binyuan: Social Behaviours is set immediately on entering the gallery space by the work: Long Jump in which Binyuan is shown leaping between two podiums on opposite sides of a road. Cars pass and stop as the artist continues his action, heightening senses of an inevitable fall and the physical tensions within the piece. The work expresses Binyuan’s physicality whilst announcing the playful behaviours of the artist and the curators. Long Jump simultaneously acts as a permeable barrier that slows the visitors’ entrance whilst proposing shortening physical and metaphorical distances between viewers and artists. The works presented exploit Binyuan’s online and ad hoc approaches to making and presenting actions as tools for physical, emotional and conceptual expressions.

Exercise projected across the corner of a wall and a sheet creates the effect of a fluid, ever changing and reinterpreted projection. This action in the work provokes sensations of intimacy, chance, playfulness and experimentation which are important to the artist. Exercise playfully exploits perspective and perception and presents the artist appearing to blow a copse of trees.

The curators and the artist have sought active participation from viewers as a means for exploring and shortening the distance between the artist and the public. A social wall where visitors are invited to leave comments and tweet allows for a topical and valid audience participation that enhances the experience of the show whilst avoiding patronising the viewer. As an artist who primarily presents work online, distance is an intriguing concept and provokes questions pertaining to online domains heighten as alleviating or exacerbating alienation, distance and social barriers. The wall has a slightly confused agenda, provoking questions relating to its necessity in a show where public engagement, social interaction and intervention are core components in the works presented. However, this contentiousness also promotes its validity and it is interesting to witness this being used in a manner that compliments the exhibiting artist.

Resonate in which Binyuan jumps every time a train travelling overhead hits a loose rail and Signal require an amount of viewing stamina in the sense that they are immersive and require time spent watching. Binyuan’s work frequently requires a viewer and in both works the artist seems intent on exploring this through subtle actions that otherwise would go unnoticed. Their repetitive nature might encourage many viewers to watch small portions of the films but their immersive quality is lost by doing this.

Holistically, he show successfully presents an artist known for ad hoc activities and online presence in an institutional environment without gentrifying the works. This is achieved in the main through conceptual exploration through active behaviour and emphases on play in the works and curating. Refreshing is the freedom with which the artist and curators seem to have worked, presenting an exhibition that is simultaneously honest, overpowering, darkly comical and immersive.

Matthew Merrick is an artist and lecturer based in Leeds.

Image courtesy of CFCCA.

Li Binyuan: Social Behaviours, CFCCA, Manchester.

9 April – 31 May 2015.

Published 27.05.2015 by James Schofield in Reviews

522 words