zhiyi cao

For Zhiyi and collaborator Chong Lii, the term “creative” is a site of dispersal. Originally tied to notions of divine design and creation, which implied a final product, it now refers to a class of people engaged in varying degrees of artistic or aesthetics-oriented work. Zhiyi and Chong note that within this social paradigm, “creatives” are no longer subjects, they are projects that are constantly refashioning and redefining themselves. The demarcations of creative labour are unclear as everyday interactions bleed into the work of making work. 

Live Creatives Show is a response to this phenomenon. It is reality TV, is a film set, is a co-working space for “creatives”, is “a microcosm for relationships and activities to ferment”. It is an experiment that interrogates creative labour through strategic complicity, one which orchestrates a state of performance through spatial and filmic framing. By demanding the active and documented presence of its participants, Live Creatives Show underscores the social labour of being a “creative”, which asks that you, amongst other things, show up, employ keywords, engage in discussion, meet the right people, nurture needed relations. 

However, for them, the work is also an attempt to decouple labour from implications of economy, to turn to what they call an aesthetics of labour. The linear confines of labour as a process leading to a product or end goal are to be disrupted. Footage is recorded in the present is thus an end in itself, until uncertain (dis)use in the future. Joy is reintroduced into being together.

Live Creatives Show, Zhiyi Cao and Chong Lii

From above, they look like close friends. The tables an enclave without walls, the many entangled wires some metaphor (are you projecting, now) for this togetherness. Your attention renders their body electric.

The cameras are an altar, designating divinity, creating something to offer something to. Divine this: one of them takes a sip of coffee. Another staring at their laptop screen. You try to see what they see, but the screen is distracted by light hitting it, the angle is skewed. So instead you see a bit of their hands. (Is this saying something?)

But nothing is happening, really. (You’re about to turn away—) Until one of them says something you don’t catch, and suddenly they are laughing. You lean toward them, smiling a little bit as though you’ve heard the joke, as though you’re also there (or here) with them.

You’re not supposed to interact, but you see them glance at you. They turn away quickly, nudging themselves back into frame. (How do people pretend they are not seen? How do bodies lounge across the curvature of an eye?) But something has been transmitted to you; it turns something on in your body. Your back straightens. Some small blinking light comes on.