Battle City Single-channel video installation, 06’55", 2012

Battle City
Li-Ren Chang

Battle City is at once a movie, an installation and a work of performance art. Li-Ren Chang set himself the task of competing with the Hollywood studios at their own game and making his own action drama using whatever resources he could lay his hands on in daily life.

There is something paranoid about Chang’s instance on building every set, down to the last detail, with his own hands. His flat is transformed into a studio, the space modulated to adapt to the requirements of different scenes played out in his mock-up of Taipei, a living ruin populated by vehicles and troops that navigate tangled routes through the chaos. Rejecting the temptations of professional equipment and studio and the assistance of technicians, Chang prefers to stay master of his piles of cardboard, polystyrene, biros, crayons and materials picked out of bins.

The same approach is employed to the film’s narrative, which is stripped down to the essentials: a man loves a woman who doesn’t love him. Around them a violent and filthy world makes reconciliation impossible. Language is reduced to an incomprehensible babble – voiced, of course, by Chang himself – as clichéd routines of interpersonal disappointment and military dominance are played out. By grounding his film in hand-made processes, Chang mocks Hollywood’s disconnect from the real world and at the same time creates a dismal portrait of what happens when we apply the banal narratives of cinema to real life.

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