top of page

My brain hole just dilated another 2 inches

By MIAO Ying

FEB 02, 2015 Published on Rhizome

​Randy Marsh(Lorde): “You can't just replace artists with holograms,Who will create the content?’’

Entertainment Business CEO guy: “Today commentary is the content.”

— south park season 18 episode 9 #Rehash


Like all the other Chinese social networking websites that got successful in China, Bilbili/哔哩哔哩弹幕视频网 also has been modeled after an original idea yet this time it’s not from the USA, but from Japan—Niconico, which was launched in 2006, four years before Bilibili.  “Unlike other video sharing sites, however, comments are overlaid directly onto the video and synced to a specific playback time. This allows comments to respond directly to events occurring in the video, in sync with the viewer—creating a sense of a shared watching experience.”--wiki


This "shared watching experience" is everything-- an experience that is shared with others is realized. A video is not watched unless it is watched with comments. China had 640 million internet users by 2014 and 500 million of them are mobile users thanks to the fake/shanzhai iPhones. From one side of The Wall, the Chinese internet appears to be a barren wasteland, yet despite it’s limitations, it has been evolving and growing, which makes the Chinese internet quite unique. Just as it occurs “over the wall”, new memes are created depending on what underground culture decides to make pertaining to mainstream culture; the same holds true for the Chinese internet side. 


The biggest reason why Bilibili is popular is because the internet memes are created rapidly here in china and it is exciting for people to see use of new memes in video comments. Those comments containing Chinese internet memes are usually extremely sharp and hilarious, this great sense of humor usually comes from self-sensorship, like 草泥马/Grass Mud Horse, most of the time a video that becomes trending on Bilibili is not because it is so good, but due to the opposite. It is because these videos are so amature and badly edited; it is not about the video anymore, it is about making fun of the video (吐槽/scoffed at). For example, "iPhone is almost Garbage" is of a remix of an original video made to promote a Chinese smartphone brand called, Jin Li. In this video, two men dressed in police uniforms shout about how good their products are and how only posers will spend so much money (the price of an iphone 6 plus in China is about 2 months of one's average salary) on a phone that is easily banged, classless and of bad design; equating Apple's iPhone 6 to garbage, while live streaming comments float over their faces. Comments read: " OMG,this is video is so bad that it brain washed me." " Have to watch this bad video everyday." and "I just threw my iphone to the garbage can". On Bilibili you do not watch the video again for the video, you watch it again and again for the comments. This is precisely what inspired me to make the piece, "iPhone Garbage", where I designed a remix of the official Apple iPhone 6 commercial and excluded it’s original soundtrack replacing it with the man screaming about how iPhones are garbage. In addition, on the right top hand side of the page, there is a gif animation of water pouring from the bottle through the video player, into the Apple logo pond and finally onto the still image of a real apple already being splashed by water. “Water Apple” or 水货苹果 in Chinese, literally means parallel imported Apple products. These are products that are smuggled on the bodies of people into mainland China so that import taxes can be avoided and the products can then be sold on Taobao or in electronic markets for a more affordable price than buying them in a legitimate Chinese Apple store.


The most popular video on Bilibili of all time is entitled ”When smart meets wash-cut-blow”, as you can see, live comments quickly flood and cover the screen, masking the music video itself over time. This shanzhai Chinese music video was originally from a K pop band, but was remixed by a Chinese netizen into a love song about the story of a SMART boy who falls in love with a girl but is worried her family will not like him because he has no class. So he decides to become a salon boy to learn how to cut hair and be fashionable so they can have a sweet life together drinking Coke, Fanta and Wanglaoji (a popular canned tea) everyday. SMART or shamate is a subculture in China composed of young migrants from the countryside that remain alienated from the great Urbanization push. Their fashion style is a gawky blend of goth, glam and anime and they are also the largest group of people who are still using internet cafes and local Chinese electric devices. Since this video is so popular, sometimes you can barely see the video itself, the lyrics are translated in 5 foreign languages in the comments and covered by comments like" I feel wasted after watching this""I have already have this repeated 12 times"

Of course, another reason why Bilibili got so popular is because unlike the original copied site, Niconico , which only allows people to watch videos if they are registered users,  Bilibili allows everyone to watch the videos but only users can leave a comment (The membership is free but you have to answer 100 questions about animation. But if needed, you can buy a membership without taking the test on taobao, the chinese ebay for 1RMB/0.16 USD). 

In the latest season of South Park episode 9 #Rehash and episode 10 #happyholograms, Kyle wants to play Call of Duty with his little brother Ike, and realised all Ike and his generation want to do is watch other people’s comment of other people playing Call of Duty. Kyle got so upset over this because he did not want to be a "grandpa". Meanwhile Cartman made his own channel on YouTube, "commenting on people's comments". What is interesting is that the main users of Bilibili are people who were born after the 90s. This generation is very different from the first single child generation of China, (the post 80's), who are more nostalgic (they have experienced China's 'great leap' of material life) and are more unconsciously inauthentic looking at facade over content, while the post 90's generation grew up with good material objects in their lives oppositely look at content over form.  Bilibili is very blunt, the comments flying around make it almost ugly to the visual taste of the post 80's generation, but that is exactly why it is so lovely.


It was mind blowing for me to see 弹幕/bullet comments on Bilbili for the first time. As an artist, it is visually stimulating to see moving texture floating in front of a moving picture. Also, since all the comments are live it makes the video a canvas. Leaving a comment is like drawing on the video. From a net artist's point of view, it is a tangible "social hologram" of the video..... as a Chinese net artist, whose VPN had just expired, just when I was feeling insecure and left out like being alone in Silent Hill, right in the corner there is this local internet Carnival full with people. Despite it's limitation, the Chinese internet is exuberant in vitality and full of highly creative netizens. To use a Chinese internet meme to sum this up: "Watching videos from Bilibili will make your brain hole/脑洞(aka creativity) wildly open."

bottom of page