‘Zhongguo 2185 at Sadie Coles HQ’
A review of Zhongguo 2185 at Sadie Coles HQ, curated by Victor Wang (21 September — 4 November 2017) for Feral Horses. The exhibition featured ten young artists from China, whose works address the shifting cultural contexts of China—past, present, and future—complicating and disrupting the premise of a unified visual form and national aesthetic that has often been attached to Chinese ‘contemporaneity’.
The review focussed on themes of gerontocracy, impact of digital information and the Internet on society, and the complicated relationship between tradition and progress, gender equality and posthumanism.
“Taking its title from the still-unpublished online sci-fi novel of Liu Cixin—in which, among many, Mao Zedong’s virtually-resurrected cryogenic brain attempts a cybernetic populist insurgency against the new democratically-elected female leader of China—the exhibition engages with similar themes of ‘gerontocracy, the impact of digital information and the Internet on society, and the complicated relationships between tradition and ‘progress’, gender equality and post-humanism.’ Upon entering the exhibition, you are immediately confronted by the overwhelming pneumatic air-head of Lu Yang’s digitally-rendered personal avatar. The screaming abstract head is complimented with several video streams documenting the cranium-come-kite as it inflates and soars above a vast landing-strip, and an animated vision of Yang’s slow medico-somatic disintegration into early ornamentalised interment.
Coupled with the recognisable pop-cult nightmares of Tianzhuo Chen, whose opulent subaquatic catacomb houses the decaying corpse of his video’s lecherous prince, Yang employs the most readily identifiable aesthetic recourses to the accelerating condition of a globalised, consumer-based China. One where the rising geopolitical power of East Asia meets new economic and social models of information technology and the speculative futures of artificial intelligence.” Yet, beyond the formal aesthetic tropes that have become so associative with the posthuman rhetoric of young artists now faced with a vertiginous descent into a world of 3D modelling, quantum computing and bio-hacking, the exhibition does well not to present China as a technological runaway alien (as is often done in the contemporary market). And its focus on a more personal, anxiety-inducing mood does well to differentiate from the homogeny of current Chinese mega-artists such as Ai Weiwei or Zhang Dali.”