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< Drainage Basin · 流域 >

Ruohan Li

Works (4)

《大暑 · Great Heat》
2019 · Los Angeles (short film, 2:49, 16mm)

The “Great Heat” or “Da Shu” is the 12th of the 24 solar terms according to the Chinese lunar calendar. It’s also the last solar term in summer, when the temperature gets the peak of the year. The weather in China during the period turns scorching hot and humid. The film is shot in my first year in Los Angeles. It’s also my first experience with the physical film. It’s very surprising to see how the celluloid film plays with the light no mater sunlight or artificial light. Through recording light, the celluloid film can even record the temperature and the humidity at that time and magically present it to us. It really touched me and inspired me to make this film about this abstract object, the heat, and the human emotion alluded, a restless desire from nowhere.

《躁郁溪流 · Manic Stream》
2021 · Los Angeles (video art, 5:53, 16mm, cellphone)

This film was made during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. All the public spaces in LA like schools, shops and restaurants was shut down. I was trying the organic process on film since the dark room cannot be used at that time. First, I got the found footage of film etched by sugar, alcohol, vinegar, spices, seasonings… almost every organic material found at home. Then I made a little film scroll installation by the etched film as a movable filter for my cellphone. In the film, the mottled, colorful film not only becomes the filter for digital cameras, but also forms a kind of interference with digital recording technology. Every second of the filter moving causes the sensitive cellphone to auto-focus and automatically adjust the ISO again and again, which results the constant flash of the electronic images. The physical flow of celluloid film and the virtual flow of digital video are interwoven to form the flow of the image.

《Mount Celluloid》
2023 · Los Angeles (short animation, 0:34, 16mm)

The images shot by 16mm film are the texture and pattern of different mountains and rocks in South California and Nevada. Then, through the optical printing technology of film, I used hybrid material to experiment on the existing footage and refilmed it. The texture of mountain and brush are mixed and create unique aesthetic.

2023 · Los Angeles (short animation, 0:40, 16mm)

Through exploring the movement and the effect of the traditional animation camera, this short animation is an experiment of hybrid material. The Oxberry animation camera is a huge filmmaking machine in which the effect and editing are also happening at the same time during the shooting process. The process for me is extremely graceful and precise, taking the quality of mathematics. It’s different from the current filmmaking that filmmakers have to create a very specific and complete images of the project in their minds, which have to be accurate to every single frame.


Ruohan Li
[Los Angeles & Beijing]

Art Yourself Atelier is thrilled to present "Drainage Basin · 流域" the debut online exhibition by the emerging Chinese artist Ruohan Li.

Artist's Biography

Ruohan is an artist and a filmmaker born in Anshan, China. She has studied and worked in Beijing and currently works in Los Angeles. Her practice involves experimental film, video art and documentary, but is not limited to film or any single medium. Building on her background in experimental art, she is well versed in installation art and experimental video art, and she collaborates with choreographers, dancers, composers, animators and others to experiment and find more precise ways to express very abstract concepts. Ruohan uses the perspective of her generation to excavate and explore personal memories and emotions in the context of the vast Chinese cultural background and the conditions of Chinese society. She combines her personal documentary language with a self-effacing humor and ironic attitude to present a romantic and poetic tone in her films.

About the Solo Exhibition

Celluloid possesses a property of flowing and running. I always see the celluloid film works as streams or rivers where human consciousness is drifting quietly. Probably some of them are trains which carries heavy history, narration and emotion. Duration is regarded as the main feature of the cinema. Through the filmstrip, duration can be displayed in a physical way. We can see and feel time going by when the film running frame by frame and the light going through every moment.

This exhibition includes 4 video works. The apparent common point is the media of 16mm film is involved in all of them. The exhibition is expected to present where the tributaries grow from and go to. And it also indicates the encounter or the convergence which makes the drainage basin wider and wider.

Ruohan's Bachelor major was fine art which really influences her a lot, especially the way of thinking and the element involved in her film. In Ruohan's opinion, contemporary art does not have a clear boundary saying what you can do or cannot do. But Sometimes, she feels that filmmaking does. It can be called “experimental” If we just involve hybrid media, such like different cameras or virtual images. But the arts we see in a gallery nowadays could be various types, such like painting, installations, video installations, performance… which are completely different. The fine arts background makes her interested in different film media and regard them as the physical art material. She always spend lots of time on playing with them and hope to get to know more media and bring them into her filmic practice. More than this, you can also find the influence of sketching/painting and even mixed media arts in her previous films.

Through shooting by celluloid, Ruohan saw the weight of light. Different light has different character. She is surprised the magic how 16mm film sensitively documents and presents light. When the film is being screened, the light coming from the projector is heavy which seems to contain the temperature, smell and emotion at that time. She calls the celluloid film, “light archive”. Compared with digital media, the process of shooting by film need to be more precise. Despite the limitation of duration and the unrepeatable process, the sensitization of film creates even more occasionality.

Her Art Exhibition Experience

2023 · New York, USA
Short film, Performing, Screening · Millennium Film Workshop

2022 · Venice, Italy
Symbiosis Future · The 1st Annual Metaverse@Venice

2022 · Los Angeles, USA
Shard of Rivers, Video Installation Solo · CalArts B&W Studio

2020 · Beijing, China
Eco Art and Design Week · BCAF

2020 · Beijing, China
We1 Human2 on3 Mars(Virtual Exhibition) · Hongkun Art Gallery

2020 · Los Angeles, USA
That Was Day 36 of Wuhan Lockdown · CalArts Main Gallery

2018 · Beijing, China
Undergraduate Students’ Graduation Artwork Exhibition · CAFA Art Museum

2018 · Beijing, China
Go to the Wind with You Again · Autonomous Region Hallway

2017 · Beijing, China
CHARGING, Video Art Exhibition · Riverside Art Museum

2017 · Beijing, China
Temporary Effect(artist and curator) · The Bunker

Her Study Experience

2023 · Film & Video MFA
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

2018 · Experimental Arts BFA
China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA)

2014 · High School
Fine Arts School Affiliated to China Central Academy of Fine Arts