Hu Xiangqian
Two men, 2008
Video, colour, silent, 4:00 Min.
Courtesy Vitamin Creative Space

Hu Xiangqian

December 3 – December 20, 2009

Invited by Hu Fang (Creative Director and co-founder of Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou, China)

»Two Men« (2008)

»Often when I cross the street and look at the traffic signal, the red and green lights remind me of two men who live very close together but can never come face to face. All they can do is work all day. It must be so frustrating for them – why not let them come down and dance?«
-- Hu Xiangqian

»Two Men« conveys a pure and simple moment in time, as two wordless men use the language of their bodies to converse. Their movements seem spontaneous, but also charged with an implicit understanding that is further embodied in the clothing they wear. They could almost be twins, one dressed in white with red spots and the other in red with white spots. Their relationship is clearly intimate and provocative, but what exactly are they – friends, brothers, lovers? 

»Two Men« is based on Hu Xiangqian's life with his closest friends – his »iron brothers« as they're called in Chinese. He has transmuted their shared experience of the bitter and the sweet, and placed it into a broader and more humanized context. The metaphorical moment that he has created is a lyrical expression of the friendship between men – something that is difficult to comprehend through language, but that resides deep in the heart.

Like men's interior world, this work is multi-layered and full of humor. It eschews emotion in favor of stream of consciousness. Hu Xiangqian says, »I avoid revealing emotion as a tactic to understand myself. I want to find out what happens when 'I' – the ego – becomes invisible.« He also uses the phrase »thinking with the knees« to refer to the avoidance of thought – experiencing life through the body, rather than the brain. »I want to give the viewer a glimpse of the banality of my thoughts. My work is like stale crackers, without nutrition or flavor. That's all there is to it; there's no imagination involved.« By avoiding thought and emotion, Hu Xiangqian's work achieves a sort of »zero state« – zero input, zero response. As the phrase »thinking with the knees« implies, maybe that's all there is to it. But could this »zero state« actually represent Hu Xiangqian's desire to use his art to communicate with us more directly?

Hu Xiangqian's video works arise out of incidents and actions that are »embedded« in real life. As his pieces unfold, they often deviate significantly from reality. But this has the effect of inspiring in us a more honest reconsideration of our everyday existence. He has chosen to use the medium of video not because he wants to create a reproduction of life. Rather, it is because he is convinced that video offers the truest and most effective means of interaction with his audience.

Text: Hu Fang
Translation: RB Baron, Albion CA, November 28, 2009