Written and translated by Banyi Huang
My first encounter with Cici Wu and PRACTICE was through the artist Cao Fei, with whom PRACTICE organized a show called Relaxation Party. What active minds lie behind such an unconventional yet thought-provoking theme? Urged on by a curiosity to interview Cici, one of the co-founders, I made my way through fruit stalls and fish markets to an old-style apartment building in Chinatown. Hidden in a tight space flooded with light, PRACTICE is an alternative space consisting of monthly exhibitions and a one-room artist residency.
我是通过艺术家曹斐第一次认识到 Cici Wu 和 PRACTICE，因为 PRACTICE 曾为曹斐做过一个名叫《放松派对》的展览。在这个不寻常但耐人寻味的主题背后潜伏着何样充满活力的头脑？充满了好奇心想要采访 Cici——PRACTICE 的创始人之一——我接连穿过水果摊和海鲜市场走到唐人街的一座老式居民楼前。隐蔽在一个狭小而阳光充溢的公寓里，作为另类艺术空间的PRACTICE组织每月轮换的展览和一房间艺术家驻留项目。
Imagined Cinema, 2015
Ceramic, silicone, plaster, plastic chair, coffee, fairy light, color single-channel video 3 min.
Seated by the window was Cici, surrounded by materials taken down from the last show. Still recovering from the five flights of stairs, I was immediately struck by her soft spoken yet determined demeanor. Switching fluently between English and Mandarin, Cici opened up about herself and her practice with unusual sincerity and clarity, depositing me in a poetic landscape where narrative and abstraction fused into one. It was a conversation about cinema, feelings, identity, and everything in between.
Cici 坐在窗前，被刚拆卸下的展览材料围绕着。尽管我仍由于爬完五层楼梯而喘息，Cici 温和而坚决的姿态立即让我着迷。流利地穿流于中英文，Cici 用真挚明了的语言与我分享她和她艺术实践的故事，置我于一种叙事与抽象描述融为一体的诗意化风景之中。我们聊到电影、感情、存在感，以及它们之间的一切。
Banyi: How did your fascination with cinema come about?
Cici: You know the moment when you realize you are an artist? It occurred to me years ago when I was holding a video camera in my bathroom.
For me, cinema is able to induce human tears through the mere fluctuation of light, therein lies the departure point for my fascinations with cinema itself. Montage, structured as a series of fragments, calls on us to mentally complete the projected actions. Emotion, the internal activity that populates the spaces in between the flickering of light and that which fixes them together, is a movement of the soul.
Eyelash My Hands Wink 《睫毛我的手眨眼》, 2011
Plywood, LGB train, motor, found toys, industrial components, candle, handkerchief, readymade objects
B: In The Phone Rang, So the Room Suddenly Began to Snow (2014), it seemed like you were blurring the boundary between video and the physical space of the room.
C: For me it was more about constructing a montage with the flatness of video and the three-dimensionality in which the objects preside. I wanted to create something new by bringing them together. In film language, montage is about combining short trivial shots to create unexpected results.
Detail view of The Phone Rang
B: Now I am really interested in hearing about filmmakers that have inspired you.
C: The first that comes to mind is Sergei Eisenstein, who pioneered the usage of montage. Of course, I am drawn to experimental non-narrative filmmakers, like Stan Brakhage and Chantal Akerman. I’m also influenced by my professor, Linda Lai, who is into Direct Cinema.
我首先想到的是谢尔盖· 爱森斯坦，他开拓了蒙太奇的运用。当然，我也很喜欢创作非叙事性电影的导演，像斯坦·布拉哈格和香坦·阿克曼。我还受到我导师黎肖娴对于“直接电影”研究的影响 。
B: You don’t fit the stereotype of a contemporary Chinese artist. I feel compelled to ask the question: how do you perceive of your identity?
C: A contemporary Chinese artist needs to be redefined by time. It is almost as though I lived in Hong Kong for a hundred years, passed through Beijing for a day, and New York, it feels like it’s been two centuries already. Identity is something fluid that is open to interpretation and alterations. I am just like water, and can disappear into water at any time.
B: Now for something practical: how do you balance the many roles you hold in your daily life?
C: I am lucky to have a part-time job at Asia Art Archive in New York, and share this weird space with Bill and Xu, with whom I enjoy working. Running the program at PRACTICE makes me reflect on my own art practice: it helps me understand who I aspire to be, and whom I want to support. PRACTICE exists due to an urgency that we share, as well as a longing for purposelessness.
我感到幸运，能在纽约的亚洲艺术文献库一边工作，一边与 Bill 和王旭分享这个奇怪的空间。管理 PRACTICE的项目让我反思自己的艺术实践：我慢慢开始理解自己想成为什么样的艺术家，以及自己想支持什么样的艺术家。PRACTICE 之所以存在，是因为我们不单感到一种紧迫感，同时也有一种对无目的性的向往。
Needless to say sometimes my studio work would be sacrificed, but I’m learning to balance my time better. Bill and Xu want to give me time to work on my stuff. We help each other.
As I wrapped up our interview, sounds of footsteps and laughter began to filter through the air, as friends gathered for yet another celebratory opening. It was a feeling that confirmed the spirit of openness, sharing, and spontaneity embodied in Cici’s words.
正当我完成采访时，脚步和欢笑的声音开始渗透到空气中。朋友们相聚开始庆祝另一个展览的开幕。那个感觉证实了 Cici 言语中坦率、分享，以及随性的精神。
Cici Wu was born in Beijing, and later moved to Hong Kong with her family. She received her bachelor’s degree from School of Creative Media, City University HK, and completed her MFA at Maryland Institute College of Art. She is currently living in New York City.
Cici Wu 出生在北京，之后随家人移居到香港。毕业于香港城市大学创意媒体学院，并且从马里兰艺术学院取得艺术硕士学位。目前居住在纽约。
B: Then is it the desire to share with others your abundance of emotions and perspective on cinema that motivate you to create art?
C: Emotional engagement is really important to me. I wonder if affective experience and the poetics of cinema are largely under-examined in the discussion of “expanded cinema”, where new media and technological development remain the focus.
However, I don’t think I would use the word ‘share’. It is too humble, too generous, too kind. I would prefer something more political, perhaps a personal manifesto on art and a redefinition of cinema. If I were to be ambitious, I would like for the power of the small and personal to affect how we perceive every system.
We Became Mirrors, 2016
Glass, cheesecloth, silver nitrate, sugar, ammonia, silicone, single-channel video
B: But your work isn’t overly didactic. To be assertive yet not aggressive—these are qualities rare to find nowadays.
C: There should be lots of different directions that don’t involve the stigma attached to sentiments and feelings. The path I take explores the enormous range of affections through the making of objects, for emotion is the most mysterious system.
B: That leads to the question of how you came to find sculpture to be your medium.
C: I came across sculpture in my installation workshop at college. It wasn’t so much about craftsmanship than the investigation of how two objects meet each other. My first sculptural work was a three dimensional autobiography, a research on the intimate relationship between installation and text, signs and signifiers. Starting with the idea of childhood memories, I collected a lot of toys, including a toy train of mine, and studied old toy stores in Hong Kong.
B: Was that the Eyelash My Hands Wink (2011) piece?
这是不是 《睫毛我的手眨眼》(2011) 作品？
C: Yes. Influenced by Lacan at the time, I was interested in how the systematic arrangement of objects reflects the subconscious. Then in grad school I went in the opposite direction, becoming invested in the actual craft behind molding things with my own hands.
Recently I realized why sculpture is so important to me. The way my hands deposit my feelings in objects is not dissimilar to how emotional hope is conveyed to the family through the mother’s hands. You can see that is the nature of domestic labor, the way mothers prepare meals and arrange the home. I wish to use sculpture to define the delicate relationship between cinema and emotion, as well as the indescribable sparks created by their encounter.
B: Chantal Akerman’s work immediately comes to mind. There is something about the quotidian that is central to domestic labor, somewhat female, somewhat neglected.
C: She is one of my favorite filmmakers. I’m interested in the logic behind domestic work in Chinese families.
B: Do you always draw the found objects from your own experience? Is there necessarily a symbolic significance?
C: I always make a differentiation between ready-made objects and found objects. Ready-made is something commonplace that doesn’t require a special definition, like a mass-produced cup. Found objects, on the other hand, have one more layer, distinguished by a special smell or a personal scar.
B: I was really struck by the poetic statement of your conception of Automatic Door (2015). You spoke of the inherent sadness structuring the mechanism, in that its function lies precisely in the moment when the doors are forced to pull apart.
我非常受你对于《自动门》 (2015) 富有诗意的设想所感动。你讲到过自动门的机械结构本身所固有的伤感，因为它的功能只能在两扇门被迫分开时启动。
C: I see it as a letter to my partner, with whom I had a long-distant relationship lasting many years.
Automatic Door 《自动门》, 2015
Oak, silicone, motor, engine, sensor, flowers, plastic, dress, light bulb, LED, clock
B: I see the play between light and shadow as an allusion to cinema, because they act upon the viewer in a similar way. It also has to do with the translucency of the materials you use. It’s your style.
C: Yes I use light intentionally. It is an essential element: it is not only there when I make my works, but also in space where I present them; it is the first outlet that informs the direction I take. My eyes take on the mediated lens of cinema, of which light dictates the overall mood.
B: I noticed that In Search for Siu-Sin (2015) is the only work that takes place in darkness.
我发现 《小倩》(2015) 是唯一一个在黑暗中展示的作品。
C: It is only dark because of technical limitations. I treated the projection as an object that slowly followed the moving train. Siu-Sin, a character from the film A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), holds a special place in my memory with her ghostly apparition by the window. However, by revisiting the film, the installation recreates a spatially looping narrative where Siu-Sin levitates around the room, while her lover endlessly pursues in candlelight.
In Search of Siu-Sin, 2015
Plywood, motor train, mini projector, slip ring, film footage
The non-diegetic objects in the room—the perfume bottle, the rubber gloves, the telephone—are taken from five commercial Hong Kong films made in the 90s. They were then cast and recreated. The shoe from Comrades, Almost a Love Story (1996) reminded me of dancing, so I made a ballerina shoe; the rubber gloves worn by the actress made circular movements, thus the rotating fan with the gloves attached mirrored that motion. They are subject to a trivial and hidden personal interpretation.
The Phone Rang, So the Room Suddenly Began to Snow
Oak, nylon tulle, handmade glass, silicone, wax, resin, seaweed, balloon, rotary telephone, honey, candle, paint, mirror, umbrella bag, rubber gloves, piezo sensor, arduino, Center Stage (1992), Happy Together (1996), Fallen Angels (1995), Comrades, Almost a Love Story (1996), Chungking Express (1994)
I tried to make an experimental micro-narrative in three-dimensional space: when the telephone rings it triggers the gloves to spin, activating the room in a chaotic way. It is not necessarily a pleasant experience. Fragmentation is the nature of montage, and it is such an atmosphere that I wanted to set up.
Detail view of The Phone Rang