Review in ArtAsiaPacific
On the evening of June 19, a small crowd squeezed onto the wooden benches that had been set up in the cool concrete bunker of Istanbul’s Bilsart. We had gathered to watch Psychic Bibliophiles (2017), a performance by Tuna Erdem and Seda Ergul of the Istanbul Queer Art Collective, presented by Collective Çukurcuma as part of the show “Flow Out.”

Comprising the same gestures, delivered with the spirit of a friends-and-family gathering, or an after-hours student-teacher meeting, the inaugural rendition of Psychic Bibliophiles in Istanbul was special, as many in attendance were former students or proteges of Erdem and Ergul. The pair were unable to appear in person, but by presenting the work virtually, via a livestreamed projection, they were in pitch-perfect dialogue with the complementary project included in “Flow Out,” a video by Beijing-based artist Ye Funa, titled Flying Dance (2017).

Ye’s 30-minute video collage is from her Self-fiction series (2017– ), in which she probes the constructs of identities by roleplaying various characters. During a remote talk on May 29, also hosted at Bilsart, Ye spoke about her inspiration behind the group of works. “I reacted to the stories that I see on TV. This work is about women’s stories. Those women are controversial in China. They all have a dramatic life and tragic stories,” she said. “I’m always using myself as a character to research the life of real characters.”

YE FUNA, Flying Dance, 2017, still from video: 32 min 41 sec. Courtesy the artist.
YE FUNAFlying Dance, 2017, still from video: 32 min 41 sec. Courtesy the artist.

For Flying Dance in particular, Ye plays a penniless Chinese immigrant student in Germany, whose name is Dong Mei. She presents herself as Fly to a German man called Old Jerk, who she meets at McDonalds. Old Jerk falls in love with Dong, who subsequently blackmails him with her false pregnancy. Interwoven with this storyline are scenes of Dong hanging out with a group of men as her wispy-bearded alter-ego known as Josh. Flying Dance was adapted from one of the first examples of online, Chinese-language fiction, The First Intimate Contact (1999), a love story by Taiwanese writer Tsai Jhi-heng. Ye interwove the aesthetics of early internet chatrooms and dating sites with recordings of Sims games and her original videography, underscoring the virtual, projected facets of what constitutes identity.