Shadow Play, Tales of Urbanization / Alejandro Salgado

Immigrated from Beijing and based in Flushing, NY, the artist collective, Lily & Honglei, are interested in exploring current social and environmental issues through the lens of Chinese cultural identity and heritage. The outcome is work of the 21st century digital technology, which integrates Chinese traditional art elements along with a critical assessment of industrialized modern China within a global context.

Shadow Play, Tales of Urbanization, is a multimedia project that visualizes the metamorphosis of urbanizing China. This country, which has been mainly agrarian for millennia, is going through significant transformations of its society, culture, and environment through an unprecedented process of urbanization. In 2013, the newly inaugurated national leadership unveiled the plan of transforming 70% of the country into a city-oriented lifestyle before 2030.

Through interdisciplinary fieldwork, Lily & Honglei collect information for the production of this multimedia project in which traditional art forms and new technologies intertwine. With the objective of presenting the process of urbanization to a worldwide audience, Lily & Honglei display this work in three diverse media: video installations (physical space), virtual reality (cyberspace) and augmented reality (on smartphones and tablets).

The work, divided into four chapters, reflects issues such as violence against rural families by real estate developers, transformation of the landscape, kidnapping for adoption, immigration, hopelessness, and environmental degradation for the sake of fast economic growth. This massive urbanization process is illuminated from different perspectives of time with an outlook toward the future through digital technologies, a retrospective into the past through the reinterpretation of the remarkable imagery of the Chinese shadow play, and a reflection of the present through the immersive fieldwork in modern China.

Alejandro Salgado