A Forensic Play
Act I: A Never-Ending Search for Connectivity
CURATOR: MIAO ZIJIN
Tao Hui compares his work on video content platforms to mediums that need to be activated by their environment; the fluidity of image production can provide us with multiple ways to engage with real and virtual media. The design of social media interfaces and immersive, interactive experiences help users who crave attention or affection to easily make an instant connection. Obtaining perpetual ownership or long-term use rights seems costly or old-fashioned, because consumer behavior in a disposable society is akin to now-popular ways of expressing if you like or dislike something. Swiping up to see the next video, swiping left or right on a possible date, and silly-looking movements of the fingertips give the individual the illusion of infinite freedom and choice, while creating communities of loneliness. More and more people would rather like, tip, or DM a stranger on a livestream than having face-to-face conversations with friends and family. Emotional capitalism rationalizes and commodifies emotion, and digital technology systematically facilitates and accelerates this process. Prosumers obsessed with social media voluntarily contribute content they have generated, pouring their hearts and souls into digital labor, and celebrating the deaths of their close relationships. Neither digital natives nor digital immigrants are immune to the loneliness and fear of missing out (FOMO) caused by social media.
Pulsating Atom (2019) is comprised of videos that Tao Hui captured himself, instead of downloading them from the internet. The segues provided a perfectly presented middle-aged gala singer link these ostensibly unrelated fragments of life together. These seemingly familiar images from TikTok are like selfies or pictures of everyday life uploaded to social media. In the singer’s high-energy narration of the entire piece, she plays many parts, offering portraits of anonymous people. With the five-episode series Similar Disguise, which debuted on TikTok in late 2020, Tao experimented with the transformation from video artist to video content creator, while also bringing practices and experiences from contemporary art into TikTok’s existing visual language and narrative methods. The performativity of the body hovers on the boundary between creating and destroying standards, just as popular images are always sliding between being created, being imitated, and being recorded. In contrast to social media’s reliance on algorithms and the sensational display of users’ private lives, the digital space that Tao Hui has built keeps its distance from the viewer. We must recognize a shadow of ourselves on shared creative platforms, because what makes these platforms so radical is that they, like love, reshape the self.
By Miao Zijin
Artist: TAO HUI
Born in Yunyang, Chongqing, China. He graduated from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute with a BFA in Oil Painting in 2010 and currently lives and works in Beijing, China.
Tao traversed into the art of video and installation, drawing from personal memories, visual experiences and popular culture to weave an experimental visual narration, the focus of which is often our collective experience. Running throughout his work is a sense of misplacement vis-à-vis social identity, gender status, ethnicity and cultural crisis, prompting the audience to face their own cultural histories and living conditions.
He won the special award of Contemporary Art Archive from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2008 and "Art Sanya & Huayu Youth Award" in Sanya in 2015. He also won the grand prize of 19th “Contemporary Art Festival Sesc Videobrasil”, and was shortlisted for “HUGO BOSS ASIA ART Award for Emerging Asian Artists” and International Competition sector of the KINO DER KUNST festival in 2017. In 2019, he is shortlisted for the inaugural Sigg Prize. Tao Hui has exhibited solo exhibitions at OCAT Xi’an, China and UCCA, Beijing, China. His works have also been exhibited and screened worldwide, include: Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France; MACRO ASILO, Rome, Italy; Pino Pascali Museum Foundation, Polignano a Mare (BA), Italy; Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany; Belem Cultural Center, Lisbon, Portugal; The Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva, Switzerland; Contemporary Art Festival Sesc Videobrasil: Southern Panoramas, São Paulo, Brazil; Hong-gah Museum, Taipei; Kyoto Art Center, Japan; Asia Culture Center(ACC), Korea; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea; the 4th Vancouver Biennale, Vancouver, Canada; Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing, China; Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing, China; Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China; 11th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai, China; Para Site, Hong Kong, China.
Curator: MIAO ZIJIN
In 2013, she graduated with BA in Creative Advertising Strategy (First Class Honours), London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. In 2015, she graduated from MFA Curating (Merit), Goldsmiths, University of London. Miao Zijin worked at LEAP magazine as an editor in 2017. From 2019 to 2021, she worked at Taikang Space as a researcher.
Her research interests include institutional critique, politics of identity, art production and circulation in the post-medium condition in relation to digital infrastructure, alternative spaces and self-organization. She attempts to build up a long-term collaborative relationship with the artists via a process-based research method. She treats curatorial practice as a site-specific testing ground which deals with power relations, especially the technology of governance and the politics of display.
Her recent curatorial projects include: Boomerang—The Ninth OCAT Biennale (2021 upcoming, OCAT Shenzhen, co-curator), Platforms Function in-between Celebration and Chaos (2021, Design Society, Curating Design Plan, shortlisted curator), The Revolution Will Be Funded (2020-21, Taikang Space), The Comfort Zone at A Distance (2018-19, Taikang Space), Shared Narrative(s) (2018, realized in four chapters, ShanghART S-Space), Paul McCarthy’s Lounge (M WOODS, co-curator), I Do (Not) Want To Be Part Of Your Celebration (2017, Qiao Space & TANK Shanghai Project Space), Toward the Emergence of Resistance: Make It Wrong, Till It’s Right (2016-17, Taikang Space), Welcome (2016, White Space).
Tao Hui, Video Still, Pulsating Atom, 2019. Single channel HD video, color, sound, 14 min 12 sec. Courtesy of Tao Hui, Edouard Malingue Gallery (Hong Kong, Shanghai) and Esther Schipper (Berlin).
Tao Hui, Screen as Display Body, 2019. LED screens, trolley. DImension variable. Courtesy of Tao Hui, Edouard Malingue Gallery (Hong Kong, Shanghai) and Esther Schipper (Berlin).
Tao Hui, Similar Disguise Stills Image 7/7, 2021. Archival Pigment Print, mounted on museum board, 45cm x 30cm. Courtesy of Tao Hui, Edouard Malingue Gallery (Hong Kong, Shanghai) and Esther Schipper (Berlin).