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Dialogue|Cecilia Liu——Tranquil focus in a cluttered world


Artist丨Cecilia Liu

Interviewer丨Yumeng Zhang



Translator | Chenming Zhong


Cecilia Liu|b.1997


Liu Xiaohan (born in 1997), now lives in New Jersey. Graduated from the Department of Photography and Digital Media at Maryland Institute College of Art. Her works revolve around the feelings and experiences of daily life. They are the condensation of real life, the fleeting flashes of waves in a peaceful daily life, and the results of life experience and thinking. Through media such as photography, audio-visual and digital media, she sensibly experiences the passage of time, absorbs nutrition from observation by feeling the intangibility of touch, and then transforms it into a rational and objective artistic language to express thoughts and doubts.


Life, as the most basic form of human existence, has long been labeled as monotonous, rigid, repetitive, and boring.

French sociologist Henri Lefebvre wrote in his 1946 book The Critique of Everyday Life: "Everyday life, in a sense, is a surplus, analyzed by bringing all the unique, what remains after the selection of higher, specialized, structured activities is defined as everyday life. …It is in everyday life that all those relations which make man and each one a whole acquire form and shape".

In the post-modern context, elite culture and institutional power control this phenomenal world full of food, clothing, housing, transportation, life, old age, sickness and death everywhere, making the daily life obtained by the public into fragments. The proliferation of art itself on social issues and the ineffectiveness of universal participatory art have made art creators gradually shift from the initial attitude of confronting daily life to the emphasis and return of individual feelings, and are burdened with the task of bridging the boundary between life and art. mission.

Wolfgang Tillmans, paper drop (passage) I, 2019

川内伦子,Illuminance, 2011

Graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a degree in photography and electronic media, Liu Xiaohan specializes in uncovering the inner essence hidden behind the rigid social structure through a unique narrative perspective of the trivial and everyday things.

She is accustomed to using still photography and moving video works to show what she sees and feels, including her delicate observation and exploration of daily life and ordinary light.

Liu Xiaohan's works are often seen by the casual observer as very bland and uninteresting, as if they are just the small fragments of life. This is the essence of Liu Xiaohan's works. By photographing the seemingly static but infinitely magnified moments of ordinary people's mundane life, Liu Xiaohan questions the alienated social phenomena and the social issues behind them.

For Liu Xiaohan, photography is so natural that it is not an exploration of a specific theme or concept, but a response to spontaneous observation of the external world around him.



🙋🏻: You work in a variety of digital media, mainly video, when did you start making images?

🧑🏻‍🎨: I have always enjoyed photography as a way to visually communicate the beauty of what I see in my daily life. I first studied economics as an undergraduate, but I started to create art in the real sense when I was preparing for graduate school. Based on my previous experience in photography and video editing, I decided to start with photography when preparing my portfolio, and I have continued to create images ever since. Now, for me, photography is not only a recording tool, but also a medium to express my thoughts.

🙋🏻: Compared to traditional painting and sculpture, video art is still considered to be a relatively new art medium by the public. Why did you choose it as a medium to create your works? Was there any particular opportunity or event that you experienced?

🧑🏻‍🎨: First of all, I am not really good at painting, and I often "fail to paint". I chose photography because it is the only medium that I am familiar with and can visualize the things I want to express. Painting is only the medium that was used at the beginning of the history of the art genre, while today images and film are the most common visual mediums that the public encounters in their daily lives.

The difference between painting and digital media lies mainly in reproducibility, but nowadays many paintings are also chosen to be published as multiple reproductions in the form of prints. At the same time, with the dramatic sweep of digitalization, the virtualization of artworks will also enhance the reproducibility of artworks. But when we look at a work of art, we are not only looking at the presentation of the work, but we are also focusing on the voice that the work conveys. And this part, I think, is what makes each artwork unique.

🙋🏻: The themes of your works such as Day By Day and Same Cloud Floating On By mainly revolve around your daily life, involving lifestyle, environment, people and events you face in reality and so on. When did you start to use daily life experiences as your main subject matter?

🧑🏻‍🎨‍: The pandemic has changed people's way of life, and the relationship between individual existence and social structure is changing. Especially as an artist, the impact of the epidemic was far-reaching.During the utbreak, which lasted three years, everyone was trapped in their homes - the space that solves the entire problem of survival: couch, bed, TV, computer, smartphone, microwave, frozen food, no-touch take-out supply. The closed-door lifestyle began to shift my attention to personal daily routines and attention to my present self, and there was an external force pushing me to document the everyday

Day By Day,2020, Image

🙋🏻: The ontological character of video art in history is the framing and cutting of time. In your lens language, you shoot many sparse records of the moment, and the concept of time seems to permeate your creative practice?

🧑🏻‍🎨‍: I am a person who has no sense of time, I set many alarms on my phone to remind myself every day, so much so that I forget the reason for setting the alarm. I repeat the process of turning the alarm on and off over and over again every day. In a sense, my work is also a kind of alarm clock. Through my personal video perspective, I abstract the flowing time into a freeze frame image and record time in the form of a diary.

🙋🏻: In the work WWW.SEARCH.COM, we see the individual expressions and interpretations of a series of words describing emotions by different participants, can you talk about the connotation and philosophy behind this set of images?

🧑🏻‍🎨‍: This work is inspired by the inequality of information transmission and reception in real life. This is also related to the concept of "information gap" in economics, which means that in transactions or social and economic activities, various people have different knowledge of relevant information, and the one who has more information is often in an advantageous position.In real life, due to the different influences of personal upbringing and geographical factors, everyone's information is received differently, and even information cannot be delivered to everyone equally, because it is in the hands of a small group of people. The overwhelming dissemination of information on the Internet makes the information received by the public coexist with genuine and false sources, and accelerates the spread of stereotypes and misinformation in specific contexts. The purpose of creating this work is to encourage the public to conduct their own searches and build their own interpretations of the occurrence of an event.

🙋🏻: Are all the participants in the work friends or relatives of yours?

🧑🏻‍🎨‍: Yes. In the process of creating the work, I was committed to exploring and focusing on the topic of public stereotypes of Asian people from a personal perspective. So all the participants in the final work are Asian faces and cover a wide range of genders, ages, upbringings and educational backgrounds.

🙋🏻: What kind of emotions did you have in mind when you made this set of images? Or did you want to convey some emotions or feelings to the audience through your work?

🧑🏻‍🎨‍: There is no particular emotion in it. I want to convey my thoughts and doubts about some social phenomena objectively in my work. Although I sometimes have the problem of being an idealist who likes to fantasize, I hope that my works can show the original face of the world through a rational and objective perspective without attaching too many personal subjective and one-sided emotions, and try to depict the daily life of ordinary people in a clear and rational form, with the intention of provoking the audience to ask questions and think about reality through a realistic reproduction of life. I hope that people will re-examine the world we live in after seeing my works.


Under Liu Xiaohan's lens, the recording function of video art and its mechanical ontology of reproduction do not hinder the art creation's ability to express dialogue with reality and its political potential to change the world.

Ordinary and trivial may be the initial impression of Liu Xiaohan's works, but as we gradually enter her lens language, we will find that her works point to a broader social concern. More importantly, her lens has never been limited to the context of photography, but rather encompasses her response as an artist in the face of reality and social issues.

Almost Stationary, 2018, Video

As social animals, human beings live in a complex social network, not in isolation. The distinctive self-expression in art creation is often a prominent expression of the common sense of the external world reflected in individuals.

Liu Xiaohan has put her curiosity and sensitivity to the society into her works, recording the seemingly most ordinary, small and meaningless daily life one by one, mixing the attitude of life and the exploration of essence. When ordinary things are wrapped up by the camera, the human feelings hidden within the everyday subjects return to the sense of commonality among people in the macro world.

Bus Stop, 2018, Photograph

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