Skip to main content
Photography (MA)

Sai Li

Sai Li (Chinese: 李赛) is a visual artist based in London. Her work ranges from film, photography to installation. She uses these mediums to explore the influence of rationalism on individuals. 

After completing a BA in Social Work and Sociology, Sai went on to work at a mental health rehabilitation centre in NYC. Here she helped her patients develop recovery plans and regain social skills.

At the RCA, Sai contemplated the impact of society on the individual through reflection and analysis of the inner ego, and has attempted to show the inner world of the individual spirit through moving images.

Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Photography (MA)

Rationalism implies discipline, requirements, moral constricts, and uniform standards. In the time where high efficiency is the most important thing, rationalism is promoted to an infinitely high position. But excessive rationality is extreme madness.

Today’s mainstream film works are very close to capturing 'perfect' realism, but at the same time they are depriving the power of imagination. It is a "recreated" realism, a simulated, uniformly grammatical illusion. Behind the magnificent cinematic scenes is the result of careful design and manipulation, where nothing gets out of hand and everything is controlled within a precise rationality.

This experimental work attempts to challenge a film model that has a fixed rational language. It retains the 8mm border and the washed colour to create a sense of linking and fading of unconscious thought fragments. On the content level, the plot of the work is adapted from two dreams I had during lockdown. I believe the feeling people have when they dream is the closest thing to the feeling people have when they watch films, and dreams are the language of life closest to the language of films. Usually, when people dream, they are not aware that they are dreaming and everything that happens in the dream seems to be happening in a reasonable way. Only after waking up do they realise that everything in the dream is illogical. Again, in this film, in order to present this characteristic, narrative editing is used to show a non-narrative dream state.

A girl is walking in the park on a very sunny afternoon. There are children playing with toys nearby and also couples having picnics on the lawn. She is very peaceful and finds a lake in front of her. A blue plastic bag floats in the water which looks beautiful. The girl decides to walk closer to have a look and after walking to the edge of the lake, she discovers that it is not a blue plastic bag but a blue dress. Looking in the direction of the dress, she sees a woman's dead body which has become swollen and pale.  

Suddenly the girl wakes up and realises the world she's lived in is a totally illusionary one. She tries to escape, but after a long struggle she falls back to sleep again.

The girl walks to the park she dreamed about earlier. At that moment, a security guard in uniform suddenly appears and blocks the girl's way. The girl screams out a “help” and a knife suddenly appears in her hand. She stabs the security guard and he falls down in pain. At this point a smile forms on the girl's face and she steps over the guard's body and walks on. In front of her the blue plastic bag is still floating in the lake and she wades in, to find her own body floating in the water.


8mm film