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Your recent video work Take a Walk (2014) is a great example of the surreal undertone that informs your art. It is also rich in visual references to the work of other artists, from Jeff Koons to Mark Manders and Ai Weiwei, who you summon like bizarre and irreverent product placements.
This work can be read as a curatorial proposal in digital (video) form. I employ works by other artists merely as visual components, without any critical significance. I’m mainly interested in creating personal associations to open up possibilities. I think my works contain rich substances, one of which is the surreal. They are interpretations and imaginations of reality; humor is used like the condiments we put onto the food we eat.
What techniques did you use in producing the video? How do they advance the work’s imagined narrative? Also, what is the connection between the video work and the images specifically created for KALEIDOSCOPE?
The primary technique employed in this video involves using the movement of the camera to complete the narrative and convey relations among objects in space. Take a Walk and the images I created for KALEIDOSCOPE both employ classic artworks as their core elements; while the video’s narrative is presented with the dynamics of time as its cues, the images are static, their narrative completed by grouping and arranging the elements in the frame. I incorporated Lawrence Weiner’s works into these images, which produces a sort of relationship in which the texts and the images describe one another.
You were born in Mongolia and now live in Beijing. How is living and working there as an artist? Do you consider yourself as part of an artistic scene—as sharing a certain aesthetic, attitude or sensibility with other Chinese artists from your generation?
I spent my childhood in a very arid region of Inner Mongolia. I love the colors of the landscape, and the horizon that stretches as far as one’s sight can reach at sunset. These experiences and memories are blended into my sculptures in an abstract manner. My experience of living and working in Beijing as an artist, on the other hand, has been very negative so far. The living conditions and artistic environment are horrible. Traffic jams are constant, the air quality is poor, and the exhibitions are boring. The only reason I haven’t moved to another city is because of the sculpture factory with whom I continue to work closely.
Naturally, I feel connected to other artists from my generation. But I believe that artists can only express their understanding of art as individuals. Every artist must be unique.
How and to what extent does the digital landscape affect your work?
Like everyone, I cannot unplug from the Internet, because it means freedom of information and unrestrained communication. It has definitely informed my practice, in that it surpasses geographical barriers to generate a new form of dialogue.
Yu Honglei (Mongolian, b. 1984) is an artist who lives and works in Beijing. He is represented by Antenna Space, Shanghai, and Magician Space, Beijing. Upcoming projects include a solo exhibition at Antenna Space in June 2016.
Alessio Ascari is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Kaleidoscope and Kaleidoscope Asia.
All images: Yu Honglei, Out to Lunch, 2015, Courtesy of the artist