Sichong Xie’s “Lake Lonely”
Elephant Art Space, Los Angeles
closed January 31
Written by Sydney Walters
Sichong Xie gives an alluringly minimal and meditated performance about politics and gender at Elephant Art Space. In Lake Lonely, Xie rides a bicycle on a paved road meandering through lush forests and grassy lawns. She wears a white t-shirt and white shorts giving a stark contrast from her long black hair flowing behind her. Each clip is short. A stationary camera tracks her as she bikes on the path. Over and over, she rides from sunrise to sunset pulling a small white parachute behind her.
This piece was performed and filmed at Lake Lonely in Saratoga Springs, New York while Xie was an artist in residence at The Corporation of Yaddo. Xie frequently produces durational work. On her endurance practice she says, “The viewer automatically becomes my collaborators during the course of duration at the specific site. The durational work also requires patience to see the whole work. The repetition in durational work creates an interesting boredom. Only certain viewers stay the whole duration of time they can finish the puzzle in one project.” The Lake Lonely film is only about fifteen minutes. But the beauty of the film, is the ripening glow of the sunset as light illuminates the Yaddo grounds as Xie peddles on and on.
In the back yard of Elephant, Xie hung sun prints of the white parachute she used while filming. They are ghostly, transparent squares of fabric hung on a clothesline. The delicate print of the parachute is suspended like a jellyfish floating in the ocean. Xie choose this parachute to directly point to historic figure Li Xiaqing, a 21-year old WWII pilot. Li Xiaqing was the first Chinese woman to be given a civil aviation license in China. Braced with patriotism, Xiaquin left home to become a pilot to combat Japanese aggression. However, during her training, she was forced to evacuate the plane and glide into the sea with her parachute. She detached from the chute and swam to shore. Once ashore, she applied to join the Air Force. Her application was rejected because she was a woman. Therefore, she decided to use her superb flying skills to promote anti-Japanese war through air shows, raising funds and co-founding civilian flying schools.
“The reason I want to use the template of a military parachute from WWII is that there is a subtle connection between the women artists nowadays in China and female pilots in 1930’s…the ever-changing environment in Lake Lonely represents a form of nomadic belonging,” says Xie.
She goes on to explain, “Lake Lonely touches on the sensation of solitude every artist experiences in their studio practice. The searching of Lake Lonely becomes a metaphor or platform for the whole narrative to expand.”
At the end of Lake Lonely, after riding and searching for public access to the Lake, Xie finally finds a harbor to access the water. In a final statement she says, “In Lake Lonely, I’m not trying to demonstrate the issues of public access of the lake, but I like proposing questions of who get access to the Lake Lonely.”