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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

‘Dragonfly Eyes’ is a surreal and intricate exemplar of multimedia art

A special screening and artist lecture given by the director Xu Bing offers unique perspectives into the realm of contemporary art


By Vivi Kim — arts@theaggie.org


Editor’s note: Quotes attributed to Xu Bing were originally spoken in Japanese but were translated into English.


On Nov. 1, The California Studio: Manetti Shrem Artist Residencies program hosted a special screening of “Dragonfly Eyes,” a feature film by the studio’s fall quarter spotlight artist Xu Bing. 

As shown through previous works of the artist, including his renowned “Book From the Sky,” Bing’s ability to create a fabricated sense of reality through art is proven yet again with this film. Consisting entirely of footage from surveillance cameras in China, the work is intentionally “embedded in experimentality” and introduces a unique method of filmmaking. 

 “I’m just really excited to be doing something that’s never been done before and that’s one of my greatest creative drives,” Bing said.

While the film itself is a collection of real-time footage, the story is completely fictional. It follows the life of Qing Ting, a young girl navigating modern China and getting entangled in romance after leaving her life at a Buddhist temple. Each event of the story is captured through surveillance clips edited together, giving the illusion of a false reality.

Bing’s method of storytelling goes far beyond the boundaries of conventional filmmaking. He pieces together seemingly disparate events to form a cohesive story; one that distorts the audience’s understanding of reality and fiction. In an interview with Musee magazine, Bing explained that “Dragonfly Eyes” includes pieces of footage recorded years apart and edited together, guiding the audience to reflect on the themes of time and reality, both of which are central to the film. 

In addition to the film screening, the California Studio hosted an artist lecture with Bing, during which he discussed his previous and most recent works in a presentation titled “My Creative Concepts and Methods.” During the event, he explained his works in the context of modern contemporary art and defined the purpose of contemporary art in culture. 

Bing said that artists produce work from a subjective realm of experience, but once the work leaves the studio and enters the realm of objectivity, it can become something entirely different.

“Everyone receiving it is bringing new meaningfulness to the work, including the artist, and they are also supplying content for the artist to contemplate,” Bing said.

Bing’s process of taking real events and recontextualizing them visually is not only a unique method of storytelling but also a way of bringing new meaning to the original perspective. Rather than using surveillance footage to create an aesthetic experience for the audience, Bing displays objectivity that can be interpreted in various ways.


Written by: Vivi Kim — arts@theaggie.orgVivi