Apr 18
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"The Swirl"
in KunstForum International
2005
Apr 18
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Ma Yongfeng *1971, lebt/lives in Shenzhen
The Swirl
2002, 15:06 min, Ton/sound, Farbe/colour

The Swirl ist eine sowohl harmlose wie brutale Arbeit. Trotz ihrer kompositorischen Schlichtheit und optischen Schönheit ist sie schwer anzusehen. Der Blick ist in die offene Trommel einer von oben zu beladenden Waschmaschine gerichtet und wir beobachten in einer ungeschnittenen Einstellung die Durchführung eines 15-minütigen Waschganges. In der Trommel befinden sich keine farbenfrohen Wäschestücke sondern sechs Goldfische. Die Sinnlosigkeit der Qual und die Hilflosigkeit der Gequälten lässt die Arbeit zu einer Metapher für Folter werden. Doch auch als soziale Kritik und schließlich als zynischer Kommentar zum Künstlerdasein lässt sie sich lesen, wenn man die Bedeutung des Fisches in der chinesischen Kultur als Sinnbild für Wohlstand in Betracht zieht. Im rasanten Übergang von autoritärem Kommunismus zu einem uneingeschränkten Kapitalismus sind Unabhängigkeit und Distanznahme von den Mechanismen des Systems nach wie vor schwierig. Künstler berichten von dieser Erfahrung, nicht zuletzt durch die massive Konjunktur junger chinesischer Kunst im Westen. (DB)

The Swirl is a work that is as innocuous as it is brutal. In spite of its compositional simplicity and optical beauty, it is difficult to look at. The gaze is directed into the open drum of a washing machine that is loadable from above. In an uncut shot, we observe a 15-minute wash cycle. However, in the drum there are not brightly colored pieces of clothing, but six goldfish. The pointlessness of the torment and the helplessness of the tormented can be read as a metaphor for torture. But it may also be understood as social criticism and a cynical commentary upon the artist’s existence, if one takes into consideration that the fish functions as a symbol for prosperity within Chinese culture. During the rapid transition from authoritarian communism to untrammeled capitalism, independence and distance from the mechanisms of the system continue to be difficult. Artists tell us of this experience, not least of all fostered by the recent boom of contemporary Chinese art in the West. (DB/GFT)

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Apr 18
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As I made my way through the entrance at the INOVA gallery, the first piece of the “Ruins” exhibit to grab my attention was a fifteen-minute video titled “Swirling”. Ma Yongfeng’s digital video loop shows six fish being poured into a washing machine and going through several of the wash cycles. As the Koi fish were being whipped around in circles, I began to wonder what Ma Yongfeng’s intentions were. This video can be seen as having somewhat of a metaphoric implication. The Koi, a symbol of wealth, are thrown into this washing machine, which can be symbolic of the constantly changing world. “Swirling” is a digital video that provides viewers with a visual understanding of the correlation between the idea of wealth in China and the economic development it has experienced.
Apr 18
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As an aspiring art major, I notice that I am visually attracted to all forms of art from all different countries. This is especially true when referring to the differences between Chinese art and American art. After sitting through a guest lecture from Zhang Zhaoshiu and Ma Yongfeng, I became particularly interested in not only the art as a whole, but the thought of what these individuals considered art. I suppose not everyone will come to a simple conclusion to this question, but I don’t really consider Ma Yongfeng’s “swirl” art, as much as I consider it to be a thoughtless experimentation. I’m not going to sit here and list all of the reasons why this video is pointless like most others will, but I did try to analyze and or interpret what it meant. For the most part, the only way to really know is to hear it from the artists themselves. Nonetheless, these artists did trigger a sense of curiosity in me and made me wonder what the rest of new media and digital art in china looked like.

I visited the Ruins exhibit on March 12th, 2 days after the opening. Immediately upon entering the exhibit, I was greeted with the controversial video clip of the “swirl” on a large flat screen TV. It kind of made me laugh inside, due to the fact that I can guarantee this video offended nearly 90 percent of the class.
Apr 18
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“Swirling” a video by Ma Yongfeng a fifteen minute long digital video loop was displayed on a television screen in INOVA’s entranceway. Six Koi are dumped into an upright washing machine and whipped around through several wash cycles. The fish whirl through the water creating a spinning image of orange forms. This piece was hypnotizing in a way but also caused the viewer to wonder what the artist’s intentions were. A metaphor was being made by the artist with Koi, a symbol of wealth, being put in a washing machine, a symbol of the ever changing present. Yongfeng created an interesting and thought provoking relationship between the concept of Chinese wealth and the economic growth it has endured.
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