In BIC’s inaugural exhibition, we see an unorthodox slice of a rapidly changing metropolis in the process of transformation, which in the case of Wuhan, exposes a city of China’s interior in a state of survival with its own particular blend of culture: “Wherever, Whenever.” From beneath an apparent blanket of calm and stability, uncontrollable sensations of desire and anxiety rise to the surface.
In the animated images of an anonymous artist, fragmentary methods of representation point to doubts about the ideals and principles driving globalization. The artist’s “unknown” and “anonymous” linguistic style and creative approach are derived from feelings of antagonism in the face of his own marginality. In the piece I Give Myself to You, artist Li Xinqi heightens the viewer’s visual appetite. As a form of fetishism, Lin Langxuan mounts the personal belongings of a number of “Wuhan Girls,” arbitrarily extending them into the upper reaches of the exhibition space. These “objects” become a footnote to consumer society, functioning as a code to represent a metropolitan woman’s consumption as the exhibition takes the mental state of the performance piece and establishes a juxtaposition between the object and the human. At the same time, it creates a space to reflect upon questions of female identity and gender.
Li Jian’s Big Building, Big Building evokes Tatlin’s constructivist theater as it uses wire netting to assemble a stout structure and cast projections onto the exhibition floor. It creates a space of nothingness, and seemingly becomes a dream of the city dweller. Grounded yet transient, it drifts between the spaces of the real and the unreal. Shen Rui’s installation The Future Cannot Wait is rooted in countless memories of displacement, of leaving rented houses while the objects within are left to linger in neglect. As it reconfigures and reestablishes a new order of things, there are thoughts of “bidding farewell to the past and turning to face the future.” In his Er Hei and Wuhan installation piece, the materials come directly from the abandoned wood and tile fragments of a large-scale demolition site. The piece utilizes the interior to hang white big-character scrolls. This produces a space of extreme tension and despair, one that exposes the immense pressure that the individual must endure under urbanization.
In Li Hanxiao’s Pillar, a wooden pillar floating in the Yangtze River comes to rest in Wuhan. With the unknown future of the drifting pillar in mind, the gravity of the piece forces the audience to contemplate and explore its psychological depths, to abandon the dead-weight of the towering pavilion’s base and the unavoidable production of a type of fragmented loss. We observe in the piece a classical palette of colors, yet interestingly, this classical sensibility brings colors together to represent a scene that is neither elegant nor classical, but just an everyday vegetable market. Like a symbol, it blends a feeling of nostalgia for the traditional as it simultaneously contemplates transformation. WAZA’s installation piece, Ten Fragments, collects dirt and dust from Wuhan’s city streets to create a knife. The piece distills the inspiration and symbols of the urban individual, and gestures to the sense of heartbreak surrounding memory and the vanishing days of youth. The purity of white reveals an intention to make the pain of these memories drift away, and to express a type of allegorical temperament.
These pieces all gather everyday objects in order to engage in an act of reconstruction—to produce a sense of strangeness from the familiar. Seizing the “present moment,” they provoke excitement and confusion in the viewer. Wuhan is represented as tumultuous, complex and transforming. The various artists participating in the exhibition contribute a diverse array of resources, using installation, video and performance to map out their projects through intimate thematic connections. The works call upon the audience to imagine the profile, the silhouette of Wuhan, and these remarkable pieces distance themselves from the so-called “mainstream” as they simultaneously inspire the audience to observe and critique. Xue Baohua