The Cretaceous Period 01 02

2min HD respectively 2007
Two channel video installation
Two 16:9 plasma monitors

In a smaller gallery space on one side of the room, the volcano is brought to a kind of life as a looped video projection: it erupts, or rather sparks, flares, shimmers and pulsates. The lack sound and the bewitching glow of the thing are soothingly mesmerising, as is a second projection: this is the volcano's elemental opposite, a body of water that sloshes backwards and forwards in a clear acrylic container. It seems to be a recording of an interactive exhibit, inviting children to operate a device that illustrates the mechanical properties of liquid in motion. Ma manages to generate layers of uncertainty and confusion and arrive at images that are modestly beguiling. These works are not so much casual observations of the strangeness of museums as they are the outcome of an informal, perhaps oblique, resolution to engage with these technologies that sustain the construction of nature as a set of cultural ideas.

Dan Smith
Art Monthly

Storm Model

5min color sound 2005
Single channel video installation, projected
One DVD player, one projector

In Storm Model (2005), Ma Yongfeng inverts his strategy to address a related set of issues. The 5-minute video impersonally records the destruction of a model village by "forces of nature." While the turgid water tossing the helpless fish about in The Swirl is obviously part of a humanly made design and a mechanized expression of routinized abuse, the water depicted in Storm Model is supposed to be torrential rainfall and flooding-a simulated retribution to humanity for its iniquities, perhaps, like the biblical floods meant to cleanse the earth. Here, however, here there is no Noah, no ark, and there are no animals to fulfill promises of regeneration. There is only destruction as simulated "nature" reclaims the earth, sending us back to our origins.

Maya Kóvskaya

In preparing this video work Ma Yongfeng spent several weeks working on a large model of a Chinese mountain village that is struck by a severe storm, complete with torrential rains, floods, and combining sound, and light effects.After the video was produced, Ma Yongfeng proceeded to destroy the installation. This work sets out to challenge the relationship between digital video, installation, and the common practice of model building, particularly by natural history museums. These man-made constructions represent mock-up residues of the real world, where people and animals are transported into the simulacra of the origin of species.

Thomas J. Berghuis

Two Skating Girls

9min 52sec PAL color sound 2004

The two girls in question are filmed from up in the Gods at the ice rink, the camera following them round a myopic voyeur with stereoscopic problems. From the one girl dancing round with her double we find that there are two girls, imitating their elders, training for the big day. All the ambiguity of the viewer is brought to the fore when we note that they are not the only two girls in the ice rink. A glimpse of two other, out of focus, objects of desire, gives the lie to the idea that we are watching a simple transcription of the poetry of gesture and innocence. Ma Yongfeng introduces this session with a piece which advances a recurrent theme in the video art that characterizes the most pertinent work in China today, that of the duplicity of simplicity.

David Kidman

Beijing Zoological Garden

27min PAL DVD 2004
Tri-channel video installation, projected
Three video projectors, three DVD players
With sound, dimension variable

Ma Yongfeng's recent video work Beijing Zoological Garden marks a departure from his earlier video pieces and moves into a realm that is more reflective. In this video Ma Yongfeng wanders with his camera through the Beijing Zoo filming the animals in their various enclosures. The film is shown as a circular image, as if through the lens of a camera obscura, and this emphasises the viewer's detachment from the scenes portrayed. As he drifts around the Zoo, Ma Yongfeng observes and records the movements of the animals and their spectators, creating a mysterious atmosphere that explores the artificial habitat of the animals in their man made shelters. Boundaries shift between animal and human. Man watches the animals, the animals watch man in an artificial environment in which species are saved from the excesses of the outside world.

David Thorp

Confrontation Exercises

3min 25sec DVD color sound 2003
Single channel video installation, projected
One DVD player, one projector

In this 3-minute video, sequences of a pair of naked butts, bumping together over and over again, are interpolated with bouncing orange ping pong balls. The balls have no discernible rhythm, but they fall with stubborn predictability. Over and over, the butts bump and the balls fall. That is all there is. Senseless, pointless, ceaseless, humanly-created conflict. There is no resolution, only impasse, hinting at the human being's stupidity and our stubborn insistence on embroiling ourselves in irresolvable conflicts.

Maya Kóvskaya

The Swirl

15min 6sec DVD color sound 2002
Single channel video installation, projected
One DVD player, one projector

The Swirl is a work that is as innocuous as it is brutal. In spite of its compositional simplicity and optical beauty, it is difficult to look at. The gaze is directed into the open drum of a washing machine that is loadable from above. In an uncut shot, we observe a 15-minute wash cycle. However, in the drum there are not brightly colored pieces of clothing, but six goldfish. The pointlessness of the torment and the helplessness of the tormented can be read as a metaphor for torture. But it may also be understood as social criticism and a cynical commentary upon the artist's existence, if one takes into consideration that the fish functions as a symbol for prosperity within Chinese culture. During the rapid transition from authoritarian communism to untrammeled capitalism, independence and distance from the mechanisms of the system continue to be difficult. Artists tell us of this experience, not least of all fostered by the recent boom of contemporary Chinese art in West.

Dorothée Brill