As a global platform for the exchange of contemporary art, we occasionally invite curators, scholars, and resident artists from around the world to present and exchange ideas in the hope of creating a space for interdisciplinary dialogue and promoting experimental contemporary artworks. The exhibition is open to the public by appointment.
IN THE SHADOWS OF PARADISE
CHINESE VIDEO ARTSINCETHETURN OF THE CENTURY
The exhibition runs from 13 October 2021 to 12 January 2022
Location: Troy House | London 10-12 New Union Square, London SW117AX
Kan Xuan, Liang Yue, Liu Yujia, Ma Liuming, Peng Yu, Shen Xin ,Tang Dixin, Yu Ji, Zhang Peili, Zheng Guogu, Zhou Xiaohu
IN THE SHADOWS OF PARADISE is the first exhibition to take place in the London space of the Troy House Art Foundation and is selected from its collection of Asian new media art. The UK-based Troy House Art Foundation is devoted to the collection, exhibition, and research of contemporary Asian art as well as to the promotion of artists’ residencies and exchange.
Although presented here as discrete and autonomous art works, these selected videos, made between the late 1990s and 2018 by ten Chinese artists, may also be seen in the context of a short but deeply rooted cultural history.
Video art first appeared in China during the 1980s, pioneered by artists such as Zhang Peili. In his later work, shown here, a laconic view of nature, economy and power made in reference to the form of a classical landscape scroll, glosses the newly reinstituted traditions that were again being taught at the China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou; the institution where he had recently created China’s first department of New Media.
Zheng Guogu’s forty-five minute montage of the street life of a homeless man squatting in the glitzy downtown fashion quarter of Guangzhou reveals the dark underbelly of the new materialism. In the harsh paradoxical shadows of a crypto-capitalist workers’ paradise, innocence, even happiness, may survive - but only without connection to its surroundings.
A number of women artists, such as Kan Xuan and Liang Yue, began to use video as a way of exploring contemporary urban sensibilities and identity through a sense of danger and melancholy while Peng Yu’s more sardonic approach revolved around humour. Ma Liuming was one of the first to address taboos of androgyny and gender fluidity in Chinese art and, from 1993, employed cross dressing and sporadic nudity in his performances and videos. Redeploying the masks of traditional Chinese Opera, Yu Ji addressed the issue of individual identity from a more distanced, less subjective, point of view with kaleidoscopic close ups of different “types” expressed by ambiguous expressions painted or drawn onto soft pliable masks. Zhou Xiaohu’s multi-channel installation, on the first floor, discloses even darker shadows hovering over the Chinese entrepreneurial dream. In a frenetically elaborate set up in which participants act out motivational drills devised by the American Company Amway to sell money-making pyramid schemes he subliminally evokes the mass demonstrations that took place during the Cultural Revolution.
At a time when increasingly strict censorship is again being reintroduced into China, the two most recent videos in this exhibition, Liu Yujia’s (b.1981) Koh Lam Island (2017) and Shen Xin’s (b.1990) A Warm Spell (2018), were both independently shot on small islands in the south of Thailand. It is tempting to regard these two young female artists’ sudden shift towards another culture as an act of estrangement, a Swiftian creation of another world, all the better to see their own.
The feelings of precarious present and uncertain future that characterise the works in THE SHADOWS OF PARADISE are also the subject of performance artist Tang Dixin’s short video An Act of God (2010). He films himself completing a perilous act: in the Shanghai subway, he jumps with a handheld camera between the rail tracks as a train approaches, lies down while it passes over him and then climbs back onto the platform. The neurotic futility, chaos, tension, and joy of this short moment of survival are presented as an existential loop.
A Conversation between David Elliott and Jiang Jiehong