4 channel video, 2 mins cycle
, 2019
PRETTY EYES exhibition, Mission Hill Gallery, Boston

Body Container (Part 1)_Yixiang Tong from Yixiang Tong on Vimeo.

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REVIEW by Gil Spears 

Yixiang Tong’s 4-channel video installation “Body Containers” addresses the theme of body image within digital culture. The installation is a cycle, beginning with four separate visual tableau--two of which incorporate both 3D-generated computer imagery and found video objects--and ending with a synchronous, contiguous shot of a placid, vaguely unsettling imagined digital space that stretches across four screens.

BODY CONTAINERS by Yixiang Tong, 2019, video still

The piece makes use of 3D animations of bodies stop short of realism—arrested in a digital limbo where they function as symbolic templates. “Stock” character animations, on the one hand, of doll-like female figures are juxtaposed with larger nude or semi-nude forms that the artist shaped using 3D modeling software. This twofold approach underscores the various resonances of 3D-generated bodies: imperfect, endlessly replicable ‘sculptures’ that function as stand-ins for the human form writ large. The larger forms occasionally bend and fold in a way that resembles fabric or clothing, and also appear to be covered in underwear-type clothing that very closely resembles flesh. By contrast the “stock” character animations of sculpted “perfect” female nudes are stiff, immobile and statuesque. In addition to the 3D- rendered forms, real video footage intervenes in the form of found video objects, apparently taken from Youtube tutorials for makeup applications. A grid of pale flesh tones offsets a grouping of carefully made-up female eyes.

The title “Body Containers” is variously evocative. A container can be something that holds and secures but also constrains, delimits or constricts. The title alludes by way of exclusion to what is contained *by* the body or what ‘contains’ the body—to traditional notions of mind or soul, in fact—an idea also negatively represented by the evocative image of the headless female form, a classical image of female agency or consciousness denied or arrested. The profusion of pale flesh, which ranges from pink to alabaster white, also seems to point to racialized constructs surrounding skin color, and seem to resonate with the white space of the video-limbo that contains these bodies—which mirrors the gallery space that contains it.

BODY CONTAINERS by Yixiang Tong, 2019, video still

Subtle religious or liturgical themes are arguably present in the work as well. Skin or flesh, understood not just as external mask but as an ephemeral or merely this- worldly state of transience in a passage to some future perfection, is evocative of Christian concepts. The white spaces of limbo in which the bodies seem to float evoke an almost ironic depiction of heaven. And the notion of bodies as stand-ins for immortal, immaterial abstractions has resonances with the use of 3D images, which in their distance from real bodies stand apart as real bodies do from the immaterial soul. The idea of spiritual fulfillment or salvation has a troubled connection to aspirational ideas of body image—whether we are constantly improving or constantly in a state of dying.

Gil Spears works primarily in drawing, painting and video. He was born in New York City and studied religion and cinema before pursuing art. He turned to painting as an alternative to philosophy or film as means of expressing ideas about death, culture, and spirituality. His interests focus on cinematic language, geology and technology.


-Lighter and Lighter
-Body Container
-Running Heart Beat
-The March
-Sanzu River Flower
-Another Me
-Love to Death
-Balloon Life
-21st Century Folktales
-Trippy Cat
-Dream Life of A Ferry
Before 2018
Before 2018
Before 2018