By William Wang
Even with their ubiquity in our lives, lights maintain the power to pull us toward them, as demonstrated by the event at Ditan Park, last August. 20 artists presented their glowing works for 'Switch On Beijing' to illuminate not only lawns, but also people's minds.Starting with Wang Xin's understated and eerie projections of mountains at the south entrance, art installations were set up throughout the park, pulling visitors along a winding course of lights.
One highlight of the event was Ringz, a piece centered on a large disc of spinning lights by French artist Philippe Morvan. The slightly off kilter disc suggested a celestial dimension, while the accompanying ambient electronic music placed the work firmly into a contemporary framework.
Another crowd-pleaser was Trans Form, a projection and sound piece by Xie Yanan. Using a traditional Ming Dynasty gate as a screen, the projections complemented the form of the gate in captivating ways. Xie's piece both paid homage to the gate's place in history and contextualized it in other settings, which ranged from the cosmos to the field of science, and even nightclubs. "A lot of older women come here to dance at night," noted Xie. "They come here just to dance, and the surrounding architecture means nothing to them. I hope to influence and inform them about their environment, and let them know that there's some new changes and new meanings in their surroundings."
Other pieces such as Lulu Li's piece Hey, were more playfully provocative, entertaining viewers whilst causing them to scratch their heads and wonder, "Hey, what?" at the same time. Artist Li explained, "You say Hey, and add a comma and it becomes very loaded. Where do we go from here? It's awkward".
Art fans and designers attended to suss out the scene. Hobbyist photographers arrived with tripods in hand. And of course, park regulars came out for their evening stroll, with many suddenly exposed to art that they had been previously unfamiliar with.
A boy named Xiao Xiu was equally amused and perplexed by the glowing art pieces scattered about the park. "It's alright, but it doesn't have much meaning," he said disparagingly, before adding, "Chinese people really don't understand art so well".
Many of those out that night would disagree with Xiao's accusation. At the very least, they would share their opinions on the art, animatedly stating why this or that piece was or wasn't to their taste. And that alone sheds light on the role of art in our lives.