Dragonfly Eyes and Phoenix

UCCA: Here you find yourself at the final stop of the exhibition. In 2008, Xu Bing was invited back to China to serve as the vice president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Phoenix was the first work he created after his return. The materials used to construct these two large-scale phoenix sculptures are all reclaimed from discarded building materials, a byproduct of China’s urbanization. On view here are materials related to the creation of Phoenix alongside a seventeen-minute documentary on the making of the work.

The other piece you see here is Dragonfly Eyes, Xu Bing’s newest work completed in 2017. The dragonfly has more eyes than any other insect. Each of its compound eyes consists of thousands of smaller ones. The first feature-length film the artist has ever directed, Dragonfly Eyes is edited from footage taken by thousands of surveillance cameras—just like the eyes of a dragonfly. The entire gallery is transformed into a giant surveillance camera, with additional security footage livestreamed onto computers in the hallway outside this room.

This is a movie made without actors or cameramen. However, Xu Bing jokingly notes that “In China, our cameramen are ubiquitous.” The two main roles, Qing Ting and Ke Fan, are not played by “actors,” but are embodied, at any moment, by random passersby swept into the story. As the narrative proceeds, the audience might begin to doubt what they see—are these different people, or the same people? This fictional story, composed of real surveillance footage, blurs the boundary between reality and fiction.

Apart from the nine-minute trailer for Dragonfly Eyes, UCCA also exhibits the script, raw footage collected by the studio, a documentary on how Xu Bing acquired the rights to use the likenesses of the characters, and other preparatory materials.

During the exhibition, Dragonfly Eyes will be screened every day from Monday to Friday at noon in the UCCA Auditorium. Visitors can learn more about the screening schedule at the front desk.