Same. But different.

Art Wang Peng seems to be the Dom Joly of the Chinese art world. Two of his video art works appear as part of Tate Liverpool's The Real Thing: Contemporary Art from China and both would not have looked out of place within Trigger Happy TV and are an absolute hoot. In Gate, Peng lured a group of what appear to be fellow artists and art critics into a space and showed them a film of him visiting a hardware store to buy a padlock. He tells the shop keeper that he doesn't need the key and leaves it on the counter. The assembled crowd haven't quite twigged what's going on, until they realise that Peng is suddenly using said padlock and a large amount of chain on the large metal doors that provide the only exit to the space, locking them shut and more importantly trapping the guests inside.

As the artist retires to a safe distance to enjoy the result of his handwork, it slowly dawns on the visitors that he has no intention of letting them leave just then. Frustratingly for them, Peng has a camera outside feeding live what the situation looks like from outside the room. Some of them take it in their stride, still more simply light a cigarette and wait for the ensuing mayhem. For there is mayhem as others become downright irritated by Peng's attitude and pull hard on the lock, the chain and gates, desperate to leave.

It won't budge.

What doesn't occur to them is it's at least a six man (or woman) job but they're all flying the mission solo. But they each keep having a go, mostly laughing nervously because probably when they received the private view invite this was the last thing they were expecting. Oddly enough, although for some reason it's not surprising, none of them really try brute force. Anyway you can imagine what happens eventually, and it doesn't involve a lynching - but the accompanying information suggests that some of the artists haven't forgiven Mr Peng.

The other piece is Passing Through which plays on two screens, running concurrently films recorded ten years apart. In each Peng literally takes a line for a walk. Using a specially prepared jacket, he drifts through the streets of New York and Bejing, loosing a long thin piece of chord from his hole in his back. It's simpler to watch than describe, but practically what happens is that a long piece of silk is pulled across roads and wraps itself around lamp posts and traffic lights, cars and even people. Like the other work, this sudden barrier to people passage across the streets and passages creates a mixture of bemusement and irritation and the results are similarly amusing.

What both of these works share with Dom Jolly's material is that they demonstrate our human capacity to integrate the patently bizarre into our lives. In the first film, the vast majority of people simply stand around even though there's the possibility that Peng would be quite happy to spend the day there. In the second film, it's simply peculiar watching people actively avoiding this tiny line in their way, sometimes walking the long way around in order to avoid it. Sometimes people duck underneath and on one occasion a rather tall man selflessly holds it aloft to let other people through. But none of them, ever, simply break the cord. When greeted with this new addition to their environment they work around it as much as possible. You laugh - for exactly the same reason that you did when two men dressed as dogs kicked seven bells out of each other on Trigger Happy TV and Londoners would just walk on by as though it was the most normal thing in the world.

A similar example of humanity working within the environment they've been given is currently showing at the Open Eye Gallery, also in Liverpool. Lars Tunbjörk's Office is a series of photographs taken in Japan, North America and Sweden of people working within office spaces. Despite the wood paneling and desks, these are bleak, banal places systematically sucking the humanity out of their inhabitants. It's depressing and enough to make someone visiting in their lunch hour consider their career options. Tunbjörk emphasizes these claustrophobic spaces with close ups that omit the outside world; even when windows do feature its frequently dark outside inferring the lengthy hours that the people are working.

What I think thematically links Tunbjörk's work with Peng's is that once again, people are essentially working within the limits of the environment that they find themselves in, and even worse than that, unlike Peng's playground, they're private spaces and the opportunity is there to some extent reconfigure them to suit the task at hand. One photograph, taken at a New York law firm shows a group of people working on a case, piles of paper covering a giant oak table and the floor, a woman crouched on top putting sheets together, a man underneath apparently counting. Big case, but it does look like the whole operation could be more productive if they simply moved the table out of the way. Like their neighbours at street level who won't cut the chord to be on their way, there's a kind of worshipful attitude to a space.

An even more shocking image for me is of what looks for all the world like the old trading floor at Enron, in which again a desk bisects the middle of the picture. This time a broker is completing a deal above, and below a computer engineer has squeezed himself between a PC tower and the inner edge of the table, deep in concentration as he attempts to repair the thing. It looks dangerous and he seems to be in some pain. Not only is he's servicing that machine and apparently putting his own life in danger to serve the corporate machine. Most everything else is probably just disheartening; like the image of a bigwig getting their shoes shined in situ, the shiner looking balefully at the camera the very epitome of the old Bjork lyric, 'There's more to life than this...' It's all nonetheless intoxicatingly fascinating and well worth a visit. Unless you're on your lunch hour from an office that is

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