Tianyuan, Tianyuan Space Station, 12 December, 2000 (2000).
For an art and science exhibition in Beijing, the painter Li Tianyuan
contributed a series of unusual self-portraits. To create these tripartite
works, satellites, cameras and microscopes were employed, with technological
assistance provided by the Institute of Remote Sensing and the Institute
of Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In each triptych, the
first picture was shot from a satellite 800 kilometers above the earth
at a designated time; the second at ground level by an ordinary camera;
and the third with a microscope that enlarges by 500 times some bodily
substance—tears, for example. By putting the three pictures together,
Li says, he intends to convey a sense of the frailty of human beings
in the sweep of nature.
Arising from a culture that has traditionally been marked by the subordination
of the individual to the collective, these works all reflect the emergence
of hybrid new conceptions of selfhood and personal identity in contemporary