Gestures (one); 2015; beijing; photo by Xie Fei

I recently had the privilege of experiencing within the time frame of one week Yan Jun’s ‘Gestures (Two)’ both as audience member and performer. The piece depicts a scene that revolves around a central, slowly moving and silent figure (a dancer, an exerciser, an actor, a model?) being captured in his/her movements by a number of swarming photographers. The photographers respond to the careful gestures made, though at times seem to evoke them as well. Are they photographers? Musicians? Dancers themselves? The dynamics here are delicate though not clearly defined. With Yan Jun being an artist working predominantly in sound or sound related projects, I guess the work would firstly categorize as sound art. But the piece is void of sounds other than those made by the camera shutters..

The mentioning of Yan Jun’s name I assume instills the audience with a firm expectation to be listening though. In any case, the performers are instructed to listen, to an in-ear soundtrack –spoken words by Yan Jun himself- that deals with considerations of listening (as an act) and implications of the music concert: sound related issues. The in-ear voice reflects just as much however on the process of documentation, on movement and environment. And with the performance instigating a self effecting situation of change and response without obvious causality, the piece could then just as easily file under performance art. Its message (possibly), could be understood as being about intrusiveness, the consumerism of images and our increasingly media inflicted & corrupted ways of relating to each other and our surroundings. Making the piece socially or politically engaged even. All these qualifications feel self evident and valid to me. And redundant at the same time.

Gestures (Two)’ seems to comfortably exist between or without categorizations. And that is a very good place for it to be. Personally, I am mostly fascinated by the confused relationship between the photographers and the audience members. Both are observers of the same central figure, part of the same scene, though somewhat in the dark about how they are part of it. Both are watching, capturing, interpreting. These days, it seems, being audience in China implies to document, images mostly. So how are these performers performers? A thing that i noticed and remembered is that there were relatively few active photographers amongst the audience. Where spectators commonly and ironically seem to prefer to look through their lens, the presence of photographers as performers evoked a performance of the audience; to witness without a camera.

Martijn Tellinga, November 2015

Gestures (one)
composed, conducted & performed by: Yan Jun
performed by: Xie Fei, Li Yingwu, Wang Kun, Ding Xin & Gerard Altaió
video documented by: Da Fu & Xie Fei; produced by: Da Fu
january 20 @ xp;february 12 @ meridian space (Miji Concert 21)
2015; beijing


by li yingwu 09-455
Gestures (two); 2015; wuhan; photo by Li Yingwu