A short introductory presentation of Li Ran’s work after a meeting in April 2013 in Beijing with the artist…
Li Ran graduated from the Oil Painting Department of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing in 2009. In 2008 with other young artists – Chen Zou, Li Ming and Yan Xing, he initiated the 公司/Company. While collaborating on different projects including others artists, they did not wish to define themselves as a group but more as an art collaborative project where each artist has its own individual practice.
Always searching new ways to communicate his concerns about the Chinese Art system in which he’s been evolving, Li Ran found in recent years through his videos-performances a creative language to express them. Using acting and mimicry as tools to question the transmission of knowledge and information, he challenges the viewer perception and at the same attracts him in his artistic practice.
In Mont Sainte-Victoire video (2012), he enacts a multiple-role actor imitating dubbed voices from 70’s-80’s movies and reads a script, written by himself, composed of a compilation of different Art History essays – from Cézanne’s letters to Foucault’s and Barthes’s essays. In a more recent work Pretty knowledge (two-channel video, 2012), he plays the role of a French seer – imitating a video supposedly created in the 80’s where a man predicts the future for the next thirty years. The original video is quite popular on the Internet and generated a debate over its truthfulness. Li Ran’s incomprehensible imitation of French accent and body language further alienates the spectator’s perception by presenting a deconstructed narrative and pushes him out of the established knowledge framework.
For the exhibition Alternatives to Ritual curated by Biljana Ciric, Li Ran presented I want to talk to you, but not all of you, a two-channel video, where he filmed a conversation with the curator exchanging about their respective work. On the second channel he replaced the original soundtrack by a dialogue between a “man with mental problems and his psychiatrist who tends to solve his problems through a bunch of medical terms”.
He continued to explore his performer skills with Born Again video where he plays the roles of a news reporter and a dead bluesman. The final result is a frantic rhythm video with musical background that troubles senses and meanings. This work was showed at the UCCA ON I OFF show, which brought together works from selected young artists born between 1976 and 1989.
For his next project, Li Ran will return to his father’s artistic practice and try to talk about his individual experience of modern art in China. The question of how to face the transition in Chinese art history from a conception of « meishu » (fine art) to « yishu » (art) in relation with his contemporary practice will be presented through the new installation for Art Basel HK 2013. It will contain a series of texts and documents including letters, oil paintings, photos, etc. related to his father’s art education and creation from the late 1970s to late 1990s as well as a new single channel video “Another Modern Artist”, where Li Ran plays an imaginary modernist artist. The title of the work refers to the exhibition curated by the critic Rasheed Araeen (Hayward Gallery, 1989), which pointed out the “absence of non-Western artists in the history of modern art.” In this work, the artist also presents one aspect of his father’s artistic career, which has accompanied his own specific practice of contemporary art.
“We can understand this as a kind of return, a return to art itself which is outside the system and unconfined to aesthetic absolutes; a return to a certain introspection and reflection with regards to the perception of the context of the field; a return to creation imbued with contemporary significance, to a clear creative.” Art critic and curator, Su Wei (text accompanying Li Ran’s solo show at Aike-Dellarco gallery, 2012).
 Li Ran’s description of his work, http://www.li-ran.org/portfolio/i-want-talk-to-you-but-not-all-of-you/, 2012.