The video Beyond Geography follows Chinese artist Li Ran
as he mimics the caricature of a knowledge-hungry explorer on an expedition through the wilderness. Moving through what is not concealed as anything other than what it is, a bare film studio, the camera follows the explorer’s encounters with threatening sounds in the distance, pestering insects at night, and animalistic indigenous peoples, at once scaring and exciting him. The character of the explorer satirically reproduced here by Li as a fetishist anthropologist, is a familiar and harshly criticized one, often conjured up to illustrate the fine line between curiosity and enchantment for the “Other” and the voyeuristic aggression of the western civilizer. More than reaffirming this well-known critique, however, the Chinese embodiment and thus appropriation of both the contested Euro-colonial cliche and the hunted exotic—performed by young Chinese actors in mass-produced “tribal” outfits and blackface—the video playfully shows how historically superficial characters of good and evil, black and white, victim and perpetrator are no longer clearly recognizable or “authentic” on our rapidly transforming global stage. Moving beyond geography, perhaps even beyond geopolitics, Li provokes us to radically rethink our understanding of the harmful colonizers, naive innocents, and insignificant extras of both our political past and present, changeable as they are, as we move into a yet unexplored future.