If We Delete Green, If We Start Caring About Plants
Two-channel video (4K HD video, aspect radio 4:3), photography, silk-screen print and mirror, neon lights
Ma Haijiao primarily makes video art. Based on long-term, periodic observation on a certain issue, he expresses it from a personal point of view and presents it as a project. His recent works mostly tackle social issues and construct narratives about the urban landscape. For example, the series Mr. Quan (2016) revolves around a family living in a small town in Northern China, small-town life as well as religious life. In Happy Valley and Happy Valley II : Two Shores (2018-2019), Ma takes the urban landscape in Hong Kong as the subject of the narrative, and “two shores”, a cultural symbol that signifies distance and boundary, as another underlying subject.
This time, the artist turns his focus to the narrative of an abstract colour - green. In the work If We Delete Green, If We Start Caring About Plants, he takes “green” and “plant” as the overarching themes to unfold interweaving imaginations and narratives.
In the booth, two green backdrops are installed back to back while two videos are projected onto them. The video on the inner side is filmed in an indoor studio. The artist sets up a green room in the studio, unrolling the narrative with the movements of the actors. Props include artificial decorative plants, green traffic lights, art historical imageries relating to plants and green objects, green backdrops as well as a LED screen with rolling green texts. As the artist states, “This is a man-made green space in which the colour green exist in different tonalities and their symbolic meanings unfold in multiple narratives.”
The video in the outer side is filmed in a tropical jungle, a natural space with a vast diversity in plants. The artist attempts to capture the greenness embodied in natural plants and this narrative and that of the video in the inner side contrast each other. Actors walk in the jungle while an LED screen with rolling green text, green traffic lights, and images of the urban landscape with green symbols also appear in the narrative of the video.
The two channels of the video have a consistent intertextual relationship in terms of concept and presenta- tion. For example, the artist places the actors with the same behaviours in the indoor space and the jungle space; the related texts are playing on the LED screen; man-made greenness sometimes disappears from the video and is soon replaced by the jungle video.
Green as a colour is far removed from humans’ skin colours, so it is used for cutting out images in film production. Plants are born of nature instead of humans. It is not only a signification of the colour of plants but also imbued with social significance, for instance, they are used in urban greenbelts to protect the environment, in green headbands used for protest, in green floors or countertops which are often seen in sports competitions, and in countless metaphors and symbols in paintings in art history. The artist deliber- ately blurs the boundaries between the ideas of "green" and "plant" in his thinking, thus presenting a false but true depiction of "artificial and natural”, “reality and camouflage” and “signification and symbol” in the video. In addition, in the title of the work If We Green, If We Start Caring About Plants, the former part refers to the form of the video while the latter represents the state of being that the artist expects to have during his creative process.
Following his previous working method, Ma creates multi-dimensional video works about the subject after long-term research. Apart from the two-channel video, part of the photography works will be exhibited as well. Now he has finished shooting the video, and editing is underway. Part of the photography works are completed. The artist has created drafts for the rest and expects to complete in the following months and present the result as a whole during the art fair.