SONGS One Two Three

2014, 13:38 min, color, sound, HD video

Continuing her investigation of themes of otherness, Orientalism, and outsider experiences, Thornton captures the surreal landscape of Western China's sand dunes near Dunhuang. There, tourists from China and the Middle East enthusiastically pose for photos by unseen photographers. Amidst scenery suggesting the set of a dystopian sci-fi film, the tourists wear subdued colors, punctuated by neon orange boots. They remain conspicuously unaware of Thornton's camera, until an older woman requests that she be filmed and lounges in the center of the frame. Oscillating between commotion and calm, sound is a critical element in the piece, as happy shocks of comprehension come from Thornton's sparse commentary. At the same time, the film inadvertently speaks to how identity is communicated. The tourists clearly come from different backgrounds—some urbanites, others less lavishly dressed, still others wear traditional Islamic garb—a timely and subtle recognition of the largely unacknowledged racial and religious tensions between residents of Western and Eastern China. This coincidental choreography ultimately gives way to long shots of the landscape, through which small, anonymous figures move, abstracted in a geometry of overwhelming but stunning monotony.


This work is HD video and must be shown with a 16:9, HD display.
High-Definition Video Guide