“Sensual Love of the Fingertips”—Work, Live Series, Project #2
Arrow Factory (38 Jianchang Hutong, Beijing, 100007 China), May 11 to June 15, 2016
At Arrow Factory, the glass doors were pitch black. A press release posted on the wall notified viewers that the only way to see the exhibit was through a waist-high opening to the right, the size of which prevented any more than one person from looking at any given time. Together with the title “Sensual Love of the Fingertips”, this unique approach made the imagination run wild: those hoping to get to the bottom of things stooped to peer inside and became unwitting voyeurs. Perhaps, it was the curiosity surging forth within spectators that drove them into this “trap,” while the presentation of the work was itself a mere prelude. At any rate, “Sensual Love of the Fingertips” contained no obscene sexual scenes but rather flowered from the snippets of everyday sentimentality as expressed by someone who does not practice art—as a performance enacted with two hands. Plump and smooth, they were the hands of Wu Shuqing, an employee of Bernard Controls Co. Ltd. in Beijing, whose job is to assemble valve actuators and train new employees. The artwork was completed under the guidance of Alessandro Rolandi and Bernard Control’s artist-in-residence program (started in 2011), the Social Sensibility Institute.
In this case, the artist had retreated behind the scenes, completing the work by instructing someone else and thereby weakening, to a certain degree, his high-profile position in the minds of everyday audiences all the while associating himself with something more grass-roots. As the fingertips dance, phrases accompany them: “Every day, time is really tight, you know?”; “Some people do what they love, I love what I do”; “Our lives are subject to a lot of restrictions; work and family are two points on one line”; “I don’t like to complain that it is all swallowing me up…” The movements of the two hands are derived from actions like sweeping, cooking, and other common chores, or otherwise relate to Wu’s job constructing equipment on an assembly line. The artistic treatment—placing these movements against a black backdrop—weakens the inherent intentionality of the hands’ “routine” actions, and opens up a broader space for the play of the the imagination in the minds of viewers: The audience combines these strings of words and dancing fingers with their own personal experiences, generating new stories therein.