Yingmei Duan

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Yingmei Duan
Yingmei Duan, Rubbish City. Photo: Lilith Performance Studio. Courtesy the artist

Article

Encounters between Mystification and Directness

The performances and installations of Yingmei Duan

Yingmei Duan (b. 1969) begins her artistic practice as a painter. Prior to that, she studied something that literally could be called earthbound, a subject nobody would confound with art, namely petroleum development. She achieves notoriety in Beijing’s "East Village" artists’ colony in the 90s through her figurative paintings of people in predominantly dark, flat simplified interiors with a distorted expressionistic perspective. Once she starts working mainly in performance, the artist translates the theatricality of these early image spaces into increasingly, but no less dramatic, simple forms. This budding interest brings her to Germany in 1998, where Yingmei Duan completes her studies at the Art Academy in Brunswick. From that point onwards, her focus turns to performance art: Her teachers are Marina Abramovic, Birgit Hein and in the final year 2005/06, the theater and action artist Christoph Schlingensief. For her master studies exhibition "My Last Lesson" (2006) Yingmei Duan designs a performance-installation in the shape of a vast white landscape made of paper that winds its way through the university buildings, and turns this most classic of all media into a performative space that can be used daily for new actions.
Yingmei Duan’s work strives to make a connection with the everyday world, whether through using simple materials like paper, or banal remnants like garbage, or through actions that intervene in the smooth flow of daily life. Her mere physical presence cunningly produces an irritation that ultimately destroys the location’s subliminal functionality. In her performance "Help!" (2002), for example, the artist can be seen hanging for two hours on the balustrade of an open staircase atop the entrance hall to the Berliner Landesvertretung Niedersachsen und Schleswig-Holstein. From below, we see her legs dangling and kicking over the abyss like some kind of futuristic architectural mobile ornament. Suddenly you reach a bend in the stairway and find yourself face to face with a terrified, wide-eyed little girl wearing a pair of round glasses, only her legless torso visible, the hands clinging to a rail—and you are compelled to intervene.

Yingmei Duan’s actions always hold a secret, the poetry is rooted in a game of mystification, making reality dreamlike, mythic or idyllic. Most of the situations she creates are at first conceived as images, and as such, give the impression of being both obvious and obscure at the same time. In "Little Secret" (2003), we see the artist as a girlish, pigtailed apparition in a flowery dress tenderly and incessantly talking to a soft white rabbit that she pets and holds in her arms. As open and trusting as the atmosphere is between the woman and the animal, which is helped along by the steady mantra of the singsong voice, the spectator is completely excluded from their "little secret" as the title reminds us, and only the two bearers of the secret are privy to this intimately shared conspiratorial moment.

Yingmei Duan’s experimentation with temporality and its influence on our perception of reality continues to be a defining feature of her work. In 2008, she tours through numerous cities in Singapore, Thailand and China with an exhibition that is the opposite of a retrospective: a kind of "Prospective". In a performative lecture she playfully circumnavigates the boundary between writing art history and artist biography simply by inventing her own future: she plays the role of a museum guide and presents to the audience her own prospective work. The situation is staged as a fictitious Yingmei Duan solo retrospective exhibition that takes place in 2015. During a public tour of the museums’ exhibition rooms, she describes her work, yet it can only be seen in the visitors’/participants’ imagination. Many of her projects are based on such a real-time encounter between artist and spectator, whereby things and people are liberated from the rhythm and functionality of their habitual way of life and through this new scenic framing, they gain a new reality that achieves an almost mythical dimension.

The installation "Rubbish City", also realized in 2008, in collaboration with the Swedish Lilith Performance Studio, is clearly the most radical "environment" of this kind, the interplay between the naked Yingmei Duan shyly playing against a pianist, a little girl, a moderator and an old man, is really a kind of immersive theater that can be walked through. Visitors move along designated paths in a landscape made of mountains of garbage, along the way they encounter residents, each of whom is completely absorbed in their own thoughts. During the performance, which goes on for several days and lasts ten hours at a time, visitors may enter or exit the scene at will. The performance is not about a series of individual scenes, rather it is about transforming the space with its gloomy apocalyptic atmosphere into a non-place located somewhere between dream and reality; which in its artificiality engenders a special form of genuine encounter.

There, where the discarded things are deprived of their normal meaning and purpose, Yingmei Duan’s art figures, together with the spectators as welcome intruders, meet with a directness made possible only through the fictional frame.
Author: Constanze Klementz

Bio

Yingmei Duan was born 1969 in China. She works as an artist in performance, installation and video in Braunschweig, Germany.

Works

Kellererzählerin

Production / Performance,
2009
Live performance. Temporärer FreiRaum für künstlerische Aktion in Hildesheim, Germany

As we want you

Production / Performance,
2009
Live Performance mit Luigi Coppola. University of Applied Sciences Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Future of imagination

Production / Performance,
2008
Performance. The Future of Imagination 5, Singapur, 2008 “Asiatopia”, Bangkok, Thailand, 2008 “08´up-on International Live art Festival”, Chengdu, china, 2008 “The 6th DaDao Live Art Festival”, Shanghai, China, 2008 “The 6th DaDao Live Art Festival”, Shanghai, China, 2008 “The 6th DaDao Live Art Festival”, Beijing, China, 2008

Rubbish city

Production / Performance,
2008
Live Performance. Lilith Performance Studio in Malmö, Sweden

me & Ghost

Production / Performance,
2008
Live performance with Luigi Coppola. Lungomare Gallery in Bolzano, Italy, 2008

Body dialogue with Japanese men

Production / Performance,
2008
Small East Asia Coprosperity Restaurant in Nagoya, Japan

Venus from rubbish

Production / Performance,
2008
Performance

Sleepless

Production / Performance,
2007
Live performance installation. “BoulevART”, Kunstherbst Berlin, Germany

Yingmei in Wonderland

Exhibition / Installation,
2007
Performance video installation. “Positionen 1970-2008”, Bau 110, Darmstadt, Germany, 2007

Yingmei´s Erotic Body

Production / Performance,
2007
52th La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy

Two mice

Production / Performance,
2007
Live performance with Heidi Hoiyee Yip. HweiLan International Artists Workshop, Taiwan

My eyebrows are above the eyes

Production / Performance,
2007
Live performance. Friedman Galerie, Berlin

Conzept exhibition ,Yingmei Duan’ in ,Museum for Modern Art’ in Beijing

Production / Performance,
2007
Performative lecture. Kunstverein Kassel, Germany, 2007 Gallery Lungomare in Bolzano, Italy, 2008

A tale from a journey

Film / TV,
2007
Video film in collaboration with Melati Suryodarmo. Malerkapelle ("Painter chapel") in Königlutter, Germany

Phönix aus der Asche

Production / Performance,
2007
Cooperation performance-installation of Yingmei Duan and Alexandra Gneissl from the exhibition “DIE KINDER SCHWIMMEN. DIEKINDER BRATEN”. Kunstraum B / Kiel, Germany

HBK- my last lesson

Production / Performance,
2006
Live performance installation. Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Braunschweig, Germany

Debris Symphony

Production / Performance,
2006
Live Performance installation. Kolonie Wedding in Berlin, Deutschland, 2007

Happy birthday

Production / Performance,
2006
Live performance installation. Kunsthaus Erfurt, Germany

Coffee bean

Production / Performance,
2006
Live performance. “IPG UNCENSORED ICONOGRAPHY“ with Illy at Moroso”, Milan, Italy

Painter and model

Production / Performance,
2006
Live performance installation with Helge Karnagel. OKS Galerie Braunschweig, Germany

Menschenwald

Production / Performance,
2006
Live performance. Projektraum für aktuelle Kunst und Performance in Basel, Switzerland

Mosquito dancing

Production / Performance,
2006
Live performance. CCA7, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Schwebe

Production / Performance,
2005
Live performance installation. Kunstverein Hannover, Germany

On the roof

Production / Performance,
2005
Live performance installation. Aiwa International Artists Workshop, Aley, Lebanon

Observer on the bar

Production / Performance,
2005
Live performance. Hebbeltheater in Berlin, Germany

HBK, my love

Production / Performance,
2005
Live performance installation. Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany

Sleeping in Van Gogh museum

Production / Performance,
2005
Live performance. Van Gogh museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2005

Sleep walking in garden

Production / Performance,
2005
Live performance. Garden of the castle in Salzau, Germany

Paradise

Established,
2005
Live performance installation. EG-Suite in Salzau, Germany

Dream in Salzau

Production / Performance,
2005
Live performance installation. Big barn in Salzau, Germany

I love computer

Production / Performance,
2005
Live performance. Cebit in Hannover, Germany

Observer at the HBK

Production / Performance,
2005
Hochschule fuer Bildende Kuenste Braunschweig, Germany

A Miracle World

Production / Performance,
2004
Live performance installation. MARTa Herford, Germany

Taking a nap

Production / Performance,
2004
Performance with Ljubica Cvoric. Museum 25th of the May, Belgrade, Serbia

In between

Production / Performance,
2004
Live Performance. Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany

Patience

Production / Performance,
2004
Live Performance. Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Deutschland

Sleeping

Production / Performance,
2004
Live Performance. Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany, 2004 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2005

I like europe

Production / Performance,
2004
Cleaning the House, Montenmedio Arts Contemporaneo, Cadiz, Spain

Nature (Meditation)

Production / Performance,
2003
Live Performance. Braziers International Artists Workshop, Oxfordshire, UK

Little secret

Production / Performance,
2003
Live Performance. Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany, 2003 Mediamatic, Amsterdam, Niederlande, 2004

Friend

Established,
2003
Live Performance. Performance with Mirko Winkel an der Hochschule fuer Bildende Kuenste Braunschweig, Germany, 2003 Performance with Marco Mazzaro in Biennale in Venice, Italy, 2003 Performance with Marco Mazzaro in PAC Milan, Italy, 2003 Performance with Claudio Torsa in Braziers International Artists Workshop, Oxfordshire, England, 2003

In front of window

Production / Performance,
2003
Live Performance. Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany

Sleepwalker

Production / Performance,
2002
Live Performance. Cleaning the House, CGAC Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 2002 Hochschule fuer Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany, 2002

Help!

Production / Performance,
2002
Live Performance. Landesvertretung Niedersachsen und Schleswig-Holstein, Berlin, Germany

Corner

Production / Performance,
2002
Live Performance. Cleaning the House, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea(CGAC), Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 2002

Talk to myself

Production / Performance,
2002
Video film. Hochschule für Bildende Künste (HBK) Braunschweig, Germany, 2002 16. Internationales Filmfest Braunschweig, Germany, 2002 Kino im Künstlerhaus Hannover, Germany, 2003

Clown

Production / Performance,
2001
Live Performance. Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany, 2001 Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland, 2001 National Sculpture Factory in Cork, Ireland, 2001 Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany, 2004

My future

Production / Performance,
2001
Live performance. Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany, 2001 Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland, 2001 National Sculpture Factory in Cork, Ireland, 2001 Viafarini, Milan, Italy, 2002

From face to face

Production / Performance,
2000
Live performance. Domaine de Kerguéhennec, France, 2000 Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland, 2001 LOT-Theater Braunschweig, Germany, 2002 Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany, 2004 Der Offene Kunstverein e.V. Potsdam, Land Brandenburg, 2005

Old water

Production / Performance,
2000
Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany, 2000 Städt. Museum Zwickau, Germany, 2000 Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland, 2001

Fingernail biting

Production / Performance,
1999
Performance Video. Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany

Facing the crowds

Production / Performance,
1999
Performance Video. Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, Germany

To add one meter to an anonymous mountain

Production / Performance,
1995
Live performance with Wang Shihua, Cang Xin, Gao Yang, Zuo Xiao Zu Zhou, Ma Zongyin, Zhang Huan, Ma Liuming, Zhang Binbin and Zhu Ming - a collective work by the Beijing East-Village artists

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

IN TRANSIT 09

Resistance of the Object

(11 June 09 - 21 June 09)

Www

Homepage of the artist