Ask for the Moon
Curated by Cai Liyuan 2019
In 2010, with no predetermined system or sequential order, Yi Lian had the idea to begin recording his dreams. Unintentionally, his compulsion to repeat these diaristic accounts persisted for thousands of days. From the moment he transferred his visions into written word, the dreams established independent structures and new meanings. That being said, the textures of the dream landscapes and the spirits of the people of his hometown never disappeared. These elements simply took other forms, re-appear- ing in murmurs or fragments until the end of their first decade.
This period of time encompassing the work is long enough to constitute the principal aspects of Yi Lian’s methodology. His videos combine elements of both confusion and optimism; they are quiet and mysterious, but also full of imagination and hope. Akin to bizarre theatrical displays, many forms appear and dis- appear in the dreamscape. Random trees, animals, people, bod- ies, etc. follow their own set tracks but happen to all intersect in his version of space and time. The viewer adopts the role of the other, as an explorer in his strange world, meandering around with no apparent goal or motive. There is an underlying question
following the active observation of the piece: is the artist within the dreamscape alongside the viewer? Looking in, separated by a wrinkle in time?
An example of his surreal dreamscape format is the sub- ject of his 2011 work Yellow Light District which features a pair of confined feet situated in a desolate mountain range, unable to distinguish any part of their owner’s identity. Contemplation of the body is one of the threads running through Yi Lian’s early work—dreams are things that the body experiences directly. By the year 2012, the artist’s visions and dreams expounded. Did the hot springs and forests of interlocking branches, the mottled and reclusive silhouettes of animals, and the immersion into sensory nothingness in Warmcurrent come from inspirations or flashing images in his memories? In Undercurrent 2012, other dreamworlds were fused into personal visions, extending his subjective experi- ence with the Other. Somewhere between sleeping and waking, it seemed that either the joy of longing for the strange and unknown in his youth, or the unrestrainable quality of shocks to the body, or the anxiety and grief present in his memories of home are what
became the landscapes that he wishes to depict.
In conjunction with advancing technologies, Yi Lian’s recording of dreamlands became faster and more accurate. From his earlier DV method to his later smartphone recordings, he was easily able to reinforce his personal narrative. The aspect of technology became indispensable, but what Yi continued to focus on in his working method was developing the relationship of the Other’s identity that stood in contrast to the artist’s own. Highlighting the visceral effects on the body, he believes that the experience of delight and the experience of pain are purely elemental. Though the images presented may seem absurd or strange, they are what shaped stories into life. Examining devel- opments in his past works, the boy who appeared in Undercurrent 2012 has grown up, his dreamworld has likely changed alongside the changes in his physical body. Parallel spaces constructed in The Walking of Insects and Undercurrent 2016 feature a quiet body, focusing on a little protruding belly, and allowing those small yet powerful arms to reveal the wonders of life in the calmest way. Yi often constructs his work from a third-person perspective, attempting to relate to the viewer–the Other–through the feel- ings and predicaments in living beings beside his own. He also records other people's dreams in addition to his own, knitting them together in a net comprised of individual realities. Although watching a video is different from physically dreaming yourself, the artist believes that all mediums of expression can be thought of as externalized parts of dreams because of their similar char- acteristic of entangled interpretation and experience. The medi- um of video and the medium of dreaming share an undeniable closeness, which is a way to view and understand Yi Lian's work.
After this first decade he turns toward the next unknown journey. As we all look on, we can appreciate those once fresh and lively vestiges that live as one in the flow of images, whose disordered scenes and narratives somehow coordinate with lives of many other people on their own journeys. Dreaming is a phe- nomenon that will neither cease nor discriminate.
The Curse of Time – Home
From the series of A Tale Told by An Idiot
Image installation, Acrylic UV printing
20x11cm，20x15cm two specifications, about 300 pieces
A Tale Told by An Idiot is a collection of photos in Yilian's long-term recording dream video project. The first thing that Yilian gets up every day is to open a self-portrait video of the mobile phone and recall and tell the content of the dream he had done last night. These pictures are all from one frame in each video. The text on the picture is scattered like a "barrage". The text corresponds to the content of everyday dreams. This project has lasted for ten years and has nearly 2,000 videos. The Curse of Time – Home is a collection of the same scenes that occur repeatedly. The scenes of this group are related to the "hometown". In reality, there is no place of childhood in childhood. This dream of returning to the hometown will continue until the dreamer dies.
Exhibition Space View