‘I like to work in an environment where art means nothing at all, the people around you show absolutely no interest in whatever you are doing. One of the biggest advantages is: there is finally a space where you can think about your work in a metaphysical way.’
b.1986, Yuanjiang, Hunan. Lives and works in Hangzhou.
Li Ming named XX (2009) after the shapes of the singlets two youths struggle to exchange without breaking contact between their torsos. When people linger in physical contact, “it causes tension”, he says. When the contact continues but no sex occurs, the tension in the viewer increases. The young men are not homosexual. Their singlet swap is at once innocently earnest, farcical and poignant, an expression of the nameless “emotion caused by intimate collisions between friends of the same sex”, Li Ming explains. The video installation Disposable Lighters—Apple (2014-16) also started with a joke. A friend wondered how Apple’s artful marketers would promote the plastic disposable lighters that are ubiquitous in China, widely used as vehicles for advertising and even as business cards. Collecting lighters led Li Ming to the factories where they are produced in staggering numbers: 6.5 billion a year, more than one-third for export. The work combines videos of lighters being made with an “Apple” ad constructed from the fragments of 361 smashed lighters. In Zoom (2014), Li Ming starts in his Hangzhou apartment and, facing towards Shanghai, focuses his camera on a distant landmark and zooms in on it. He then travels to the landmark and repeats the process—over and over until he arrives in Shanghai, hundreds of kilometres away.