“This film has no cameraperson. But surveillance cameras all over China capture images for us, 24 hours a day,” says Chinese artist Xu Bing, who recently released Dragonfly Eyes, a film he created entirely with surveillance footage found online.
The film details a rather odd love story. The protagonist in the film, a young woman named Qing Ting (which means dragonfly in Mandarin) spends her early life in a Buddhist temple, then leaves to take a job in a dairy farm. At the farm, Qing meets Ke Fan, a young man who falls deeply in love with her and goes to prison for something he did to please her. After Ke Fan’s release, Qing Ting is no where to be found. Ke becomes so desperate to find his lost love that he goes through plastic surgery to make himself look like Qing.
To produce the film, Xu Bing and his team downloaded hundreds of hours of publicly accessible surveillance videos online, many from Chinese livestreaming sites. They then categorized the footage and edited a storyline out of the clips by using dubbed dialogue.
Xu says the film shows that the movie, “The Truman Show,” is true in reality. He wants viewers to reflect on the “surveillance state” people live in everywhere now.
Dragonfly Eyes is Xu Bing’s feature film debut. His previous art work, such as Book From the Sky, earned him international acclaim.