WARMTH

Colin Chinnery, 2016

Artist
Colin Chinnery

Title
Warmth

Date
2016

Medium

Single-channel HD video with stereo sound, 10’46”, loop

Object label

Warmth is based on stories I heard while researching a project called the Beijing Sound Museum. An elderly Beijing man told me the story of an ancestor of his who served a Qing Dynasty emperor as his insect and bird adviser. The emperor demanded the impossible, to see butterflies in the winter. Beijing culture is obsessed with training birds and insects to do strange and wonderful things, such as strapping complex whistles on the backs of pigeons so they create eerie and rhythmic sounds in the air. Many practices have died out over decades of political upheaval, but some still survive to this day. The winter butterfly story might be more myth than reality, but this is a culture that likes to blur such boundary lines.
The film is set in an abandoned house in present day Beijing. The protagonist has the keys to this house, but apparently doesn’t use it much. However, this is the place where he performs a particularly private ceremony – making butterflies fly in the winter. His preparations are calm and familiar. His age suggests that he has possibly been doing this for a long time. It is not something that he wants others to know about. Maybe such a practice was forbidden, or maybe it has some personal significance. The whole event takes on the atmosphere and significance of an allegory.