video (colour, sound)
1 h 20 min 3 sec
While Book from the Ground is constructed with a ‘found’ iconography of pictographs — visual ready-mades — Dragonfly Eyes (2016-17) also uses ‘found’ material: it is a feature-length narrative made entirely from video footage taken from Chinese surveillance cameras, a new language of grainy, often shocking, realism. We see cars fall into sinkholes, planes burst into flames, and a series of hideous accidents. Meanwhile, people are observed in ostensibly private moments. The artist and his team invented the plot retroactively, sequencing collected footage into a coherent storyline. Each of us is captured on a security camera approximately three hundred times a day, but the ubiquity of this contemporary phenomenon generally goes unnoticed. Xu Bing says, ‘…the film treats the whole world, or at least China, as a 24/7 live stream theatre. The world has become a studio, every corner being watched and streamed.’ He considered literary precedents such as George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ as he developed his story, focused on the travails of a female protagonist, Qing Ting (‘Dragonfly’) in contemporary China, ‘a society full of absurd male fantasy and rules for women,’ says Xu. Random snippets of video become alternative ‘linguistic signs’, like the overheard conversations of a stranger.