two-channel digital video
channel 1: 23 min 07 sec, channel 2: 23 sec
Zoom (2014) extends Li’s fascination with the everyday. The video installation records a journey from Hangzhou to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai. It might be judged meaningless were it not for the strange fascination of Li’s careful enactment of a digital orienteering course, with a very particular set of self-imposed rules. Starting from the top floor of his apartment building in Hangzhou, Li constructed a journey in stages measured using the maximum distance of his video camera’s optical zoom. Pointing the camera in the direction of Shanghai, he zoomed into the far distance and selected the furthest possible landmark. Then he went to find that place and repeated the exercise, thirty-six times in all, until he arrived in Shanghai. In the process Li travelled between a range of sites that represent the best and worst of the contemporary world: tourist attractions, office buildings, hotels, schools, shops, markets and open fields, ranging from old to new, from opulent (or at least well maintained) to rundown, from attractiveness to ugliness. Sometimes the places he ‘zoomed’ into were freely accessible, but at other times he had to find more devious ways to enter the sites that his camera had selected. Zoom is a twenty-first century version of a traditional Chinese trope: the scholar wandering in the landscape. Li is not separate from the environment; he and his camera are embedded within it. The camera becomes a tool of measurement and navigation to which Li Ming’s individual decision-making is subjugated as he performs a kind of artistic parkour. The distance between Hangzhou and Shanghai is less than 200 kilometres, but Li’s zig-zag journey traversed 460.