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Writing Excerpt on Wang Ye

Wang Ye’s Seduce the Image (2016) suggests an ironic seduction scene where the seducer is blinded and silenced by formulaic media representations. Seduce the Image is a 5-channel video installation looping an 18-minute silent video collage on vertically stacked miniature television sets. The looping video showcases the zoomed-in faces of blindfolded men from different found footage, presumably of pornographic nature. Referencing his homoerotic desires, Ye reproduces a modular presentation of seduction, where each desiring individual seems homogeneous and interchangeable. The miniature TV sets not only shrink the presence of aroused faces, but the five-unit composition frames erotic desires within a schema of commercial reproduction.

Wang Ye, Seduce the Image, 2016, HD Video, 18:38 min, CRT Color Video Monitors, media player. Full video: Photo courtesy the artist and YveYANG Gallery.

Wang Ye showcases a structure of narrative stability by transforming a story traditionally loaded with motion into moments of visual suspension. Ye dissociates Moth (2022) from the roaring flames in Fire (2022), where he stages the insect as unbothered by the looming temptation, instead of spiraling around it. Instead of quoting medieval iconographies, Ye’s iron gate and fire are deeply personal references to his childhood. Growing up watching the countryside landscape and Xiang embroidery practices in his hometown Changsha, the artist became immersed in traditional Chinese aesthetics and family values at a very young age. To narrate his queerness, Ye chooses the traditionally gendered medium of embroidery as silent defiance. Although the wide gap between the gate’s twisted iron bars could readily admit the moth’s passage, the insect resists its attraction to light in its inaction. The smaller size of Fire than Moth also suggests the fire dwindles when faced with the moth’s norm-defying determination.

Wang Ye, Moth, 2022, silk on silk embroidery, 21 3/5 x 16 1/3 in (55 x 41.5 cm). Photo courtesy the artist and YveYANG Gallery.

Wang Ye, Fire, 2022, silk on silk embroidery, 6 x 7 in (15×18 cm). Photo courtesy the artist and YveYANG Gallery.

Wang Ye’s video installation Ctrl! (2016) explores how erotic experiences are digitally transformed into homogeneous information modules. Ctrl! is a 5-minute video with instructional texts that command the viewer to start and stop masturbating, as soon as the on-screen progress bar finishes loading and the screen alternates color. Narrated by a cold, robotic voice reading esoteric analysis on pornography, Ctrl! choreographs a dispassionate series of sadomasochistic interactions, during which even sexual slurs appear controlled and pre-programmed. Although a flickering dot suggests recording in progress, the camera-less video projection captures nothing but a formula of desire from a cold, loveless machine body.

Wang Ye, Ctrl!, 2016, Video still, 4K Video, 5 min, projector. Photo courtesy the artist. Full video:


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