Article excerpt

Sounds of argument pervaded the exhibition "In an Instant: Moving Images and Photography by Zhao Liang," enticing viewers to part the red velvet curtain surrounding the video installation Interrogation Under Duress, 2004. Behind the curtain, three video screens set in a circle at eye level showed looped footage of three separate Chinese police interrogations. The camera observes the downcast faces, defensive postures, shifting feet, and worn shoes of each suspect with slow pans or stationary frames. Officers interject with their hands, the edges of their shoulders, and their voices, striking, shoving, swearing, accusing. Inside this enclosure of violence and power, one could feel simultaneously sympathy for and authority over the accused.


This sense of complicit viewership was even more pronounced in the video wall projection Crowd, 1999-2007, this time showing three adjacently displayed crowds: at Tiananmen Square, at a Beijing bus stop, and again at Tiananmen Square. Public respect for an underlying sense of order is implicit in the calmly seated, aligned, and expectant onlookers, both in the politically active space of the square, presided over by army officers, and in the cold night air of the bus stop, governed by its timetables.

Zhao's social observations continue in the dual-screen video installation Heavy Sleepers, 2006, where a slow ground shot runs along the floor of a dormitory for itinerant workers. Daylight illuminates an interior full of pallets occupied by bodies sleeping side by side. As the camera pans, the viewer is drawn to the possessions beside each pallet space--a steaming mug of hot water at the foot of one man, a small television set being embraced in sleep by another. …


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