This video documents the making of a site-specific artwork: a fictive pedestrian crossing on the frozen surface of a waterway in Beijing. As the artist supervises, a team of people mark off the wide horizontal stripes with string and cardboard, scoring outlines on the ice. Other participants strike the ice within these outlines, creating rectangular markings that mimic the painted bars of a zebra crossing. Close-up shots of this labour-intensive process are intercut with long views of the busy roadway and sidewalk in the background; the informal, unsteady camerawork creates a sense of documentary reality.
Du Yan’s work, a temporary intervention in the environment, draws attention to the symbols that fill contemporary cities as a set of arbitrary rules dictating how we occupy and move through space. The video captures onlookers’ reactions, which encompass enthusiasm, confusion, and concern. These mixed responses suggest how the artist’s act of placing a familiar point of reference in an unfamiliar context can create new meanings and relationships.
Du Yan (b. 1977, Beijing) translates his sensitivity to the overlooked and ordinary into experimental videos and site-specific participatory works. An MFA graduate from the Department of Experimental Art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Du studies the relationships between individuals and society and interrogates human behaviour as part of his critique of social conventions and etiquette. With artist Lv Ying, Du has held dual solo exhibitions ICI (2015) and Imaginary Enemy (2010) at Li-Space, Beijing.