"This is fat, too fat," says an old man, pointing at the dead pig on a wooden table. The camera moves in on a closer shot of knives, fire and people's hands hurrying to prepare a big, widely anticipated meal for the village. Soon, the screen fades out to another old man, staring at the camera and singing in a deep moan.
These scenes are featured in video installations at the Living Rooms of Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts as part of an exhibition entitled "Our Homeland, Gone Just Like That."
The exhibition, which began Feb. 20 and will be on display through March 5, features videos, still images, sounds and text that follow Manchurian video artist Na Yingyu's encounters with the Naxi people of Lijiang, China. The work explores the Naxi culture, land and everyday life, which are at times complicated by political issues such as cultural loss, minority representation in China and increased tourism. Though the work does not contain an explicit political message, "politics has to compete with everything else you see in (the videos and images)," said Jay Brown, who curated the exhibition.
The video portion of the work contains many glimpses into the lives of the Naxi people. The camera follows them farming, singing and dancing. People often casually turn and speak to the camera. None of these actions were scripted or staged, Brown said. Na met the people during his residency at a studio in Lijiang, where he also read about and researched the place and its history. Recurring figures include He Xiudong, the village priest, and He Linyi, the musician, he added.
A total of 353 minutes of clips are divided into 59 chapters of varying length. Currently, the Granoff Center is showing 12 DVDs with different selections of the chapters that are randomly changed every day, Brown said. "What intrigued me (about curating this exhibition) was the building and the way people use it," Brown said. The Living Rooms at the Granoff Center create "interesting situations for attention," he added. People can either pass by quickly or decide to stay for a longer time, he said. In a space like this, he recommended watching the videos at different times in their cycles, and trying to spend more time watching them.
When the exhibition at the Granoff Center closes, it will move to Location One in New York City for another display, which will take a very different format — a frame of intersecting pipes, with 40 to 50 video screens at various angles and spots along the frame. Brown will also be on campus to discuss the exhibition on its closing day in the Englander Studio at the Granoff Center.