Apr 18
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The piece that I drew the most attention towards Ma Yongfeng's "The Swirl”. This drew quite a bit of controversy and contrast between our cultures. It was interesting seeing this video again at Inova it was easier drawing my own conclusions about it and not being influenced by others opinions. The video appears to start off with around six living koi fish in some sort of pond swimming around. Not long after it starts to spin and you realize it is a wash machine. Tempers flared in the classroom, however, in the gallery I was able to look at it from another perspective. Going through the spin cycle in the wash machine, moving clockwise to counterclockwise, it stops after fifteen minutes and begins to drain. Shockingly, after the spin cycle, as the water drained, some fish laid lifeless and others twitched their last breath.
Apr 18
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As well as many photographic artist there are some video artist exhibited in Ruins. Most notably Ma Yongfeng, whose video Swirling is well known in the international art community. It shows six Koi fish placed in a washing machine. The machine cycle begins with the lid left open and the camera positioned to give us a birds eye view of the fifteen minute cycle which the Koi fish endure. It is unclear at the end of the cycle when the water is drained whether all the fish survived the ordeal as only three of them flop around at the base of the washer. As the rest of the work in Ruins, Swirling gives us a complicated view of contemporary China. A pervading sense of loss and bewilderment comes across from these artists as they watch their country progress into this century as a global superpower.
Apr 18
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As I watch the digital video “The Swirl” I see why this piece and others by Ma Yongfeng, have been exhibited internationally. The piece is very, very interesting and unique. Although, not shown at the exhibition, Ma Yongfeng’s other work (displayed in the Art 118 lecture) showed just as much uniqueness and enthusiasm. The piece is 10-15 minutes long and is very simple. It is the observation of 4 or 5 gold fish being washed in a cycle, in a washing machine, hence the title “The Swirl.” For the first few minutes or so, the viewer observes water filling the tub, and afterwards there’s a combination between water rinsing in and out from 4 different, and an agitating tub, back and forth from left to right.

The piece is so interesting and so different, but yet so controversial. After watching the piece being previewed in the Art 118 lecture, a good number of my fellow pupils were very disgusted. From what I can gather, they must have been against the treatment of the fish within the piece; one guy, as soon as the machine started to agitate, got up and yelled, “This is bullshit, how is this art?”, and stormed out. Others that chose to stay, but who were still disgusted, said things such as “Oh, that’s not right, give them some water; they’ll suffocate.” I can knid of understand their concern, but at the same time, its not like they were witnessing the murdering of animals or anything. I personally believe that the composition mixed with the suspense of the subject matter combines for a great scene. There’s also a strong contrast between the grayish, silverish metal, the clear water and the vibrant sparkle of the goldfish, especially when one watches the first few minutes of the piece, where the fish are moving limitedly back and forth. I definitely found this piece to be one of the most innovative, at INOVA; The only problem I have with it (and it may very well be metaphorical) is that I don’t understand what this piece has to do with the theme of “Ruins,” other than that the piece was excellent.
Apr 18
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Ma Yongfeng's "The Swirl" was an introduction to the "Ruins" exhibition of new video and photography from China. This video piece shows half of a dozen koi performing a struggling dance inside a running washing machine. "The Swirl" continues for fifteen minutes before the water drains from the machine. One can assume that since the koi were left flailing at the bottom of the machine, they suffocated when the film was over. Because I am not familiar with video art and due to the nature of the video, I naturally became very interested in how the other participating artists presented their work.
Apr 18
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There are some pieces that I wish I could have received a bit more explanation for, in order for a more clear understanding. “Swirl” for instance with the fish in the washing machine, it was not clear to me the message that was being presented. Is it something that you have to be familiar with the country and culture it came from to understand it? Perhaps the more I explore and expand my horizons the more I will understand.
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