Be Careful with the Candlelight, 2022

2-channel Video Installation, SD Digital Video, TRT 10:17
Installation view at “Walk To Your House”, mn gallery + studio, Chicago, IL, USA
Photo documentation by Zhuang Leng and Feifei Wang

In the dark, two men try to kill each other. They search for each other, fight with each other, miss each other, and then search again.

The classic Beijing opera, 三岔口 / Sanchakou (literal translation: The Crossroads) tells the story of Ren Tanghui 任堂惠 (in white) trying to protect the life of a general in exile from a villainous hotel owner, Liu Lihua 刘利华 (in black). In the original version of this play, the suspense of Ren Tanghui and Liu Lihua's searching for each other in a dark hotel room is the main subject and highlight of the performance.

However, in 1951, when the China National Peking Opera Company toured overseas for the first time, this plot was altered for a foreign audience: Liu Lihua was not a villain, but another hero also trying to protect the general, and the fight became a misunderstanding between the two. In the version created for this tour, the fight was elongated from its original and became the main emphasis of the performance.

This video is taken from Sanchakou (Chen Huaiai, 1976), a film based on the overseas tour version of this play, starring the same actors who performed during the 1951 tour. This scene depicts Liu and Ren in the dark, but the two characters have been separated into two tv screens, the fight scenes intentionally edited out. Right before they fight, Liu warns Ren after leaving the candle on the table, “Be careful with the candlelight.”

2022     “Walk To Your House”, mn gallery + studio, Chicago, IL, USA