HAIFENG NI, UNFINISHED SELF-PORTRAIT, 2003-ongoing

The characters written on these walls seem to be random and absolutely non-sense. This is precisely the meaning Haifeng Ni wanted to transmit! But it’s not true that the letters have no meaning: the artist started from his passport photo and deconstructed it by taking its source code. The mathematical code at the base of the photo is meaningless if you don’t know how to read it and if you don’t have a computer doing it for you. He wanted to take a meaningless language, giving it meaning. The artist himself said “I was searching for a language entirely without meaning, a zero language, so mathematics was the ideal choice. Writing nonsense equations and fragmented symbols. I then reduced this language further into meaninglessness. In this language of degree zero, meaning is no longer the semantic contents but the act of writing itself.”

Of course the code is too long to be written in a gallery, and this is the reason why it is “unfinished”. The idea itself of a portrait that is not complete is a reflection on identity and on the relationship of the artist with his identity.

The visitor of the exhibition find himself wondering inside a powerful work of art, asking himself if that could be his portrait, or the portrait of anyone. Are we able to be reduced to a series of non-comprehensible signs?

The works of Haifeng Ni are often related to the investigation on language and identity, and his website is a relatable source to go deeper in his artistic statement: https://haifeng.home.xs4all.nl/

Bibliography and other sources:

http://www.insituparis.fr/

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