Calving

2-channel video projection with stereo sound, performance, 2018

Costume design by Jing Li
Video by Mengtai Zhang
Installation and performance at the Fridman Gallery, NYC 2018

Accompanied with astonishing sight and sound, calving of icebergs, etymologically cognatic with calving as bearing a calf, is the breaking of ice chunks from the edge of a glacier - an important yet poorly understood component of global mass loss of glaciers and polar ice sheets. Some scientists argue that the hierarchy of glacier calving process could be classified into first, second, and third orders, with different scales, directions, and levels of forces superimposed upon one another, causing potentially dangerous calving events that they have yet been able to predict.
 
The work juxtaposes the calving of glaciers with the shifts in the tradition of Dong/Kam people, an ethnic minority that lives in the southwest of China, for whom the lack of a written language is supplemented by a rich oral tradition in songs. Nowadays known in China and abroad for their polyphonic village singing performance, the Kam people first started being recognized, sponsored, and advocated by the newly founded Chinese communist government in the 1950s as it sought to define a multi-ethnic image and to promote grand, “ancient”, “authentic” multiphonic choral singing styles as propaganda tools, borrowing the Soviet model of nationalism, shaping folk music in a new, state-controlled paradigm.