Huahua’s Dazzling World and its Myriad Temptations
We discover Huahua crouching in a bare room, washing clothes and dishes in a basin. Every day, she also has to cook for a demanding husband. Between two household chores, she goes out to dance in a square, telephone in hand, and livestreams videos on the Kuaishou social network, popular with rural Chinese. The local shopkeepers pay her to liven up their store entrances and announce the promotions of the day. The show continues at every opportunity at home, where all family members are called on to produce ever more content. This is the story of a brutal clash between age-old domination and the latest technologies enabling the commodification of people. Huahua seems caught between two tyrannies: one patriarchal the other algorithmic. Not only has she to exhaust herself peeling, slicing, scrubbing, but she also wears herself out creating popular entertainment. This loquacious and gravelly-voiced woman devotes herself entirely to the drudgery that fills her body and soul. She is only too aware of what is driving her: having had no choice in life for lack of schooling, she is determined to ensure that her daughter can study and live a freer life than her own. Using her caring camera to offer an oblique view of Huahua’s achievements, Daphne Xu sets up a striking confrontation between the materiality of Huahua’s existence and the filtered images that smooth her features with virtual make-up. The glazed and sugary world of digital illusion serves to reveal and convey reality in all its harshness.
Daphne Xu is a Chinese Canadian artist and filmmaker exploring the politics and poetics of place. She received her BA in Anthropology from Brown University and an MCP from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a fellow at the Harvard University Film Study Center and an associate of the Sensory Ethnography Lab. Her short film A THOUSAND-YEAR STAGE (2020), filmed in Xiong’an New Area, Hebei,
China, premiered at Visions du Reel in 2020.