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Brain Island performance

Brain Island performance at Pah Homestead, Auckland, New Zealand, Photo by Ruby Oliver and Jiaqi Tang. 2022

The Generation of the Hyperreal – Brain Island - Performance – Sept 22 2022 

Written by curator Warren Pringle


“To see a World in a Grain of Sand                                                    

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,                                        

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand                                                 

And Eternity in an hour.”                                                                                   

-William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


Heterotopia, to quote from Wikipedia, “are worlds within worlds, mirroring and yet upsetting what is outside …. cultural, institutional and discursive spaces that are somehow other”, spaces that can be physical (geographic), digital (computer generated virtual worlds) or texts (books).

One could also describe the Pah Homestead gallery spaces and it’s sculpture garden as heterotopia;

  • spaces where artists can formulate, critique and showcase utopian and dystopian concepts,


  • Monte Cecelia park within which the Pah Homestead sits could also be described as a heterotopia, “a microcosm of different environments, with plants from around the world.”


In the Brain Island series of works Xi Li has created virtual worlds that position heterotopia as explorations that take place between the individual and society.

“Unlike the randomness of everyday reality, a virtual experience is a planned experience in which every sensory detail is a design decision. The usefulness of virtual environments is not that they duplicate all the details of reality (a technically impossible feat), but because they function like our consciousness as a filter and focus, presenting only those details essential for enhancing a specific experience …..”

Virtual art, the making of virtual worlds, is a purely conceptual medium that explores, not only the eye of the Mind which uses physical materials to convey nonmaterial ideas and concepts to offer new ways to think about the world, but evokes the world of spirit as well.

This performance encapsulates ideas of experience theatre in which Xi Li uses the interior of the Pah Homestead, invited artists, her masks, choreographic design and recorded sound to articulate what it is like being alive in today’s changing times, about identity perception, in a revelation of feeling and knowing.


Performers: Xi Li, Lynn Feng, Echo Xiang, Enya Gao, Ana Pham, Qingyi Zhu, Melody-Jazz Makavani, Warisara Thomson and Patricia Fung.

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