Lai Shengyu, born Hunan province, 1978

Yang Xiaogang, born Hunan province, 1979

All of Tamen’s works have the same eerily familiar setting: a stark, cafeteria-like room in a high-rise building. There is a picture window on one side, and a TV screen on the other. The contents of room, window and screen play off each other, with bafflingly dream-like effect. It is as if one is overhearing a story in which long passages fade out, or assembling a jigsaw puzzle that has crucial pieces missing. Lai Shengyu and Yang Xiaogang (their joint pseudonym means “they” or “them”) say they are exploring “the insanity of the everyday”. Within their triple framework, anything can appear—lucky charms, fashion models, watermelons, dice, monkeys, Oscar statuettes, landmark buildings, labourers. “We are called ‘they’ in the sense of ‘the others’, because it is not our own personal stories which stand at the center of our work,” say the pair, who cite René Magritte and Edward Hopper as influences. “Our pictures hold up a mirror to contemporary China. This mirror should not just show the outer layer of reality. We are much more concerned with the psychological effects of China’s rapid modernisation.”

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