Persona

2018, Nanjing

Photography, video, performance art

Rubber prosthesis (spray-paint), cotton thread

Human Shape Sculpture is a tangible object made by human. After the sculpture is completed, static body and face of the sculpture will look rigidified, which causes a little bit dramatized. However, this kind of dramatized expression shows a potential character existing in the still shape, and also shows the materiality of materials being anthropomorphized. In addition, materials can be added to, or removed from the sculpture, which means the sculpture can easily be changed and reshaped, because of which, it becomes a dynamic space when the “re-shaping process” is ongoing.


Butoh, a dramatic art form of performance, also seems to show inner character through the shape. Butoh is a form of dance derived from resisting the World War II. The dance shows original and natural state through twist and distortion of the body. “Butoh is a corpse standing straight up in a desperate bid for life”, said Hijikata Tatsumi. Dancers are in white body makeup with twitched face, bent waist & legs, tangled body, and slow squirm. The characters are shaped dead bodies and the performance of hysteria is exaggerating, but the dance shows original state of human life that is grotesque and real.


In this work, human shape sculpture combined with Butoh is like a symbol of a mask. The nerve cells and nerve tissues on human body symbolizes the existence of potential personality. With the awakening, growing, and release of self-consciousness, the nerve structure in body will be output and transformed to limb tips that can be seen on the surface of the body. This indicates the personality mask is formed. These “new born” limbs are a kind of enlargement and extension from inside to outside. It’s just like a “blister” that appears on the skin when influenced by environment. I borrowed this biological concept to show the simulation of personality reshaping with a tangible structure.  


This process of “reshaping” was performed by three dancers with a series of movements. I used Butoh’s makeup on them to shape an original state of life. I installed limb tips made from rubber on dancers’ bodies and connect them with cotton thread. Cotton thread was used as a metaphor for nerve tissues. Limb tips were tangible structures after nerve cells became visible. In this performance, the three roles represent different states of personality: increasingly greedy, seeking liberation, and vague. Their movements were motivated by the process of digging and tracing self identity, which was also the process of personality formation. During the movement of performers, the powder dropped naturally because of the gravity. This process of collapse is just like the re-splitting process during personality formation.


Concept / Choreographer: Yujie Cao 

Cinematographer: Yujie Cao 

Performers: Ting Hua, Yuqing Fan, Yueqin Wang 

Site assistance: Nan Zhang, Rongfei Xu, Yawen Abu

Venue support: Sanniaocang art space