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December 25, 2011

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Endless summer and empty pool

IT'S a scene from a warm summer afternoon - there's a swimming pool, a table-tennis table, video monitors, an open microphone and an electric guitar. It looks perfect, except there's no water in this concrete swimming pool.

This scene of "Eternal Sunshine" is an installation by American artist Marc Lafia at the Minsheng Art Museum. Lafia also presents a series of prints and videos.

"We deliberately combined the two exhibits, Robert's Cahen's slow video art with Marc Lafia's installation," Yu Xiaoqin, a staff at the museum, says. "One is quiet and profound, and the other is lively and humorous. Visitors will have two different experiences."

The swimming pool is the highlight of Lafia's exhibition. The scene is relaxing. There are free refreshments, dance classes, karaoke sessions and popular magazines to read.

But the artist says the installation is a laboratory to inventory people's likes and dislikes. A series of questions is listed on a blackboard to encourage visitors' feedback. It asks their favorite books, films, vacation spots and websites.

The museum staff will serve viewers to their preference such as their favorite songs or refreshment. Even the lighting will be changed.

"The space is a technological artifact that exceeds any natural one, after all it's a space of eternal sunshine, a kind of utopian ideal," Lafia explains.

He says he has been an artist, filmmaker and "information architect" for 30 years. He says his interest lies in how the human environment is programmed and how everyone is part of an elaborate program that is as real as it is virtual.

Another of Lafia's thought-provoking works is a double-channel video titled "Double Fantasy: On Your Own." Lafia says "Double Fantasy" was the title of a John Lennon and Yoko Ono LP released in 1980. "It was a collection of songs in which the husband and wife carried out a musical dialogue," Lafia says. "Here I am presenting a dialogue between cultures and epochs through a series of pairings, prints and videos."

In Lafia's video, actor Jia Hongsheng in Beijing believes John Lennon to be his father; French-Swiss director Jean Luc Godard argues that Mao Zedong's little red book is going to change Paris; the Beatles go to India to seek the Maharishi and transform their consciousness, and Lennon and Ono lie in bed in Amsterdam for seven days to inspire peace.

"Here, each culture is a promise to another for a better world," Lafia says.

Date: Through January 5, 10am-6pm

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