WORDS Charlotte Di Qual
IMAGES Peres Projects
At Peres Projects in Milan, Shuang Li delves into the emotionally weighted experience of fandom, dissecting the relationship between screen, image, and reality.

The exhibition serves as a multidisciplinary exploration of the complex phenomenon of fandom, with a particular emphasis on the often-gendered concept of the fangirl. Raised in a small Chinese town devoid of the cultural influences she craved, Li explores fandom as a phenomenon rooted in absence. In “Forever”, all works emphasize the poignant absence of physical bodies —whether of the idol or the artist herself— evoking emotions of desire, worship, and devotion.

“Forever” seamlessly combines video installation and sculptures, providing an insightful look into the often-misunderstood experience of being a fangirl. The centerpiece, “Heart is a Broken Record” (2023), projects My Chemical Romance concert footage onto the bottom of a heart-shaped fountain. Li’s deep connection with the emo-punk band, claiming they saved her life, is palpable as she captures the anticipation preceding the band’s appearance, deliberately truncating footage to highlight the deferred gratification experienced by fans.

Resin cast wall sculptures surround the central installation, freezing various objects associated with fan culture and morphing them into modern relics. Trinkets, fabric, personal articles, and Li’s own writings are trapped within transparent molds, creating a distorted and even grotesque portrayal of fangirl culture. Each object extends beyond the frame, reminiscent of reliquaries, embodying the essence of the idol and constructing a paratextual story in a hypertrophic manner. However, the absence of the idol’s body not only sparks desire and worship but also leaves a gap for forms of expression and identification to mutate, exemplified by plastic pearls in the wall pieces echoing the drops of blood in the fountain.

The works in “Forever” immediately evoke the rhetorical device of synecdoche, as the protruding articles become souvenirs of absent bodies or even objects of cult and devotion. The dichotomy of presence and absence is further explored in sculptures featuring distorted feet and legs clad in ribbed leg warmers and platform boots, referencing Li’s earlier performance, “Lord of the Flies” (2022). These shoe-sculptures serve as containers for the placelessness of physical bodies, activating the physical bodies of the performers in “Lord of the Flies” and conjuring abstract fantasies associated with a missing person.

The exhibition extends its exploration into the evolving dimensions of the screen-body relationship, reflecting on how the digital realm generates physical forms that extend beyond the screen. This theme echoes in Li’s previous works, such as “Æther” (Poor Objects) (2021), shown at the 59th Venice Biennale Milk of Dreams and “This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough For The Two Of Us” (2023), currently on display at Milan’s Fondazione Prada as part of “Paraventi: Folding Screens from the 17th to 21st Centuries”.

Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in this intricate landscape of fandom, desire, devotion, and identity. “Forever” is open until January 26, 2024, at Peres Projects, Milan.