Marit Liang is a multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker based in NYC. Her work spans sculpture, painting, music/sound, 3D simulations/video games, video art, and traditional narrative cinema. Her work deals with a range of subjects, including temporality, materiality, abstraction, embodiment, and spirituality. Her narrative short films have won prizes at film festivals around the world.
Website and Links: @jade___palace (instagram); vimeo.com/maritliang
Humans are the only animals that cry tears as a result of their emotional state. Tears of joy, tears of sorrow, tears of anger, tears of frustration, tears of mania: countless species of animals possess ocular apparati that can produce tears, but humans stand alone in our ability to spontaneously shed tears when triggered by emotional states. It can therefore be said that our ability to cry is what makes us human.
In the 1930's 'The Close-up,' the early film theorist Béla Balázs wrote the close-up of the actress as she performs emotional distress and pain is the cinematic image par excellence. The tears the actress sheds, aided by the affective technical chorus of music, lighting, make-up, narrative, etc., become a cipher for the audience’s own emotional state and subject position as spectators. The audience oscillates between understanding the artificial nature of the image ('she's a good actress') and being so overpowered by its symphony of effects that they break down in tears: the involuntary response to heartbreaking stimuli. Is this empathy or something else?
Museum of Lacrimal Sac is an interactive 3D simulation made in a video game engine; it is a simulation in the original meaning of that word, ie. some kind of fraud, a deceptive semblance. The 'game' situates the user in a flooded art museum filled with an enigmatic collection of rare historical and recent works of art, video, and my own modeled and animated 3D sculptures, all of which reference the act of weeping in some way. The collapse of form and ground pervades throughout Rodin’s plaster ‘Christ and the Magdalene’ (1894), Cifuentes’ bronze ‘Dolor de dona’ (1987), a video artwork featuring Ruan Lingyu’s seminal starring role in The Goddess (1934), the year before her suicide, among several anatomical models of the lacrimal apparatus. These virtual objects are all coded with wetness shaders to respond dynamically to the artificial rain that falls periodically in the sinking museum. The simulation’s soundtrack employs classic recordings of two famous melodramatic arias expressing the singer's need to cry: Handel’s Lascia ch’io pianga (‘Let me weep’) and Rameau’s Tristes apprêts, pâles flambeaux, both slowed down to 33% speed. The surreal contortion of time that the griever experiences is reflected in the sopranos’ bathetic, piteous vibrati; this state of temporal irreality is underscored by the slow pace of the video work, the rapid passage of virtual day and night, and the steady mechanical rhythm of pumping pistons endlessly sluicing the sea of humanity's tears.
The video version of this work should be considered documentation. The work itself is the 3D simulation, which can be downloaded for PC or Mac at this link: https://maritliang.itch.io/museum-of-lacrimal-sac