4C Exhibition 2023 Q1 "The Zeitgeist"
4C Exhibition 2023 Q1 " The Zeitgeist" opened as scheduled on March 4, 2023. This exhibition has invited Aussi Chen, Yukai Chen, Hailing Liu, Zoe Congyu Liu, Xujun Han, Wenfeng Kang, Yan Yan, Yixuan Wu, Wei Wu/Zhenyu Yang, Chun Sun, Ryan Muchen Wang, Ruoyi Shi, Liying Zhang, Seri Ziyao Zou - 14 artists in total. Through various creative mediums such as painting, sculpture, multimedia video, installation, etc., they together interpret different aspects of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times.
This exhibition continues the founding concept of 4C Gallery, driven by the idea of carrying the artists' concepts. The selected works fully reflect the connection between the individual artist and the times, which is embodied in both content and form, or expressed between technology and language. This is not only an expression of the current socio-cultural reality but also a transcendental, self-interpretation. The artists connect their inner world with many issues faced by modern society, which include everyday trivial matters, as well as macro topics such as gender issues, natural changes, and global situations.
The state of the times, in some sense, is a collective presentation of individual creative styles, which are reflected in the artist's past experiences, cognition, interests, and inspirations. As American art critic Rosalind Krauss wrote in Passages in Modern Sculpture, in the idea of the famous Soviet director Eisenstein, the basis of sculpture and all forms of art is the ideology they embody. And this ideology, unique to the individual, gives rise to different creative styles. The 18th-century naturalist Buffon once pointed out that "style is the man himself." For Hegel, style is "some of the characteristics of his personality that an individual artist fully reveals in terms of expression and nuances in brushwork." Here "personality" refers to the artist's individuality, which is forged into material means.
Individuality is the most distinct feature that differentiates artists, and the 14 artists in this exhibition also present 14 types of art pieces that are realistic, avant-garde, and conceptual. They showcase the life state of the diaspora Chinese community in their own unique ways. Yixuan Wu's installation work "Isle II" combines transparent irregular glass, fine sponges, and data lines covered in yellow material. By breaking, reorganizing, and grafting these items, she constructs a warm private space. In Liying Zhang's "Shelter" series of paintings, emotions and natural totems are combined, reflecting the outside world and the private world. The delicate lines flow like thoughts, forming images full of nature and innocence, like illustrations in fairy tale books. However, behind these beautiful images lie confusion, pain, and unease – the antidote to the spirit. Ziyao Zou and Xujun Han lead us to explore the connection between nature and spirit through landscape paintings with surrealistic and symbolic colors. The abstract paintings of Aussi Chen and Wenfeng Kang reflect another kind of spiritual state of individuals under real living conditions. Aussi Chen imitates electronic images, collages between different colors and different textures, and shows abundant imagination. Kang's works have more Eastern aesthetic colors, responding to all changes with constancy, finding calm in movement, and seeking connection and change in repetition.
The expression of personal experience is often the beginning of thematic creation, and based on this, it gradually transitions to the reflection on social reality. Yan Yan's personal project "Anonymousociety" starts with collective consciousness, revealing daily collective behaviors to escape and resist social surveillance. The headphones, sunglasses, cups, and hoodies that appear in the project are all given metaphorical meanings. People only need to use these items to avoid unwanted social interactions and stares. This project reveals not only Foucault's panopticon but also Sartre's "hell is other people," and furthermore, it is a feat to refuse to become part of the crowd. Distinct individuality and cultivation also reflect their different cognitive thinking.
In Ryan Muchen Wang's "To You", the snow and water in New York, and the lanterns in New York's Chinatown during the Spring Festival, all become witnesses of nostalgia. Through the narrative-like filming technique, every sojourner in a foreign country is led to revisit familiar yet strange moments, and the vivid photographic lens deeply touches the heart of every sojourner.
If Ryan Muchen Wang's "To You" is an embodiment of reality, then the creation of Wei Wu/Zhen yu Yang is filled with a sense of virtuality and science fiction, constructing a materially abundant future. Huxley's Brave New World is also a fictional reality: humans are designed as social members of various ranks according to their genetics and inheritance. Among them, Alphas, as senior members, can have their desires fully satisfied anytime and anywhere, enjoying worry-free days, but their individuality and freedom are suppressed. Against this backdrop, literature and art are on the verge of destruction. The scene depicted by Wei Wu/Zhenyu Yang may be similar to the reality that the Alphas face. Behind "freedom" and "wealth" lies great emptiness. This void, just as reflected in the panorama effect, puts the characters in the picture and the audience on-site into deep contemplation about the insignificance of their own existence when facing the vastness of space.
The future is an inexhaustible topic, full of unknowns and imagination. Chun Sun's "#7" shows us another radical possibility for the future: a man cultivates a uterus using stem cells and combines it with his own sperm to generate a fertilized egg, thus giving birth to another "self." Consequently, the pattern of dual-sex reproduction is broken and becomes a continuation of one's own cell group. This discussion on single-gender reproduction directly points to sharp social realities such as moral ethics, gender consciousness, self-replication, and genetic cloning.
The photographic works of Congyu Liu and Yukai Chen also explore the topics of gender and sexual orientation. Congyu Liu swaps the roles of men and women - women are neatly dressed, while men are naked; women take the dominant position, while men become vassals; women talk and laugh in daily life, while men become objects of viewing. The artist sets the background as a typical Chinese-style decoration. Behind these highly absurd settings, viewers reflect on the prejudices instilled by societal images, as well as the deeply rooted gender gaze in China since ancient times.
Yukai Chen's photographic works show the experience of growing up as queer in China: between the discussions of desire, the internet, and masculinity, he imagines a narrative that is different from both Eastern tradition and Western queer narratives. Through the collision of fiction and reality, highbrow and lowbrow, splendor and ugliness, Yukai Chen's works are very impactful, even causing abnormal physical reactions in some viewers.
Where is the boundary between fiction and reality? Perhaps an answer can be found in Ruoyi Shi's work "Three or More Fish." She uses a ceramic fish to explore the boundaries of what constitutes destiny, prophecy, and fiction. She imitates the story of the Chen Sheng and Wu Guang uprising, placing fortune-telling slips, forged in the form of prophecies, into the belly of the fish and leaving the ceramic fish in various corners of Los Angeles. This is her way of examining cultural propaganda, fact fabrication, verbal truth, and how information is carried, manipulated, interpreted, and transformed.
This satire of social reality also appears in Hailing Liu's work "The First United Ice Cream Assembly Closes Today". This conceptual video is a sharp satire on the global political system, blending humor and uncanny hues. The video presents a conference in the guise of ice cream spokespersons, a parody of the United Nations General Assembly. The whole process is filled with meaningless sounds of crunching ice cream, poking fun at the emptiness of official statements and their lack of substance. These blue faces and the continuous, rhythmic chewing sounds take the viewer into a virtual space. The sense of emptiness creates a sense of unease.
Without profound and deep "life experiences," it is impossible to present the state of life, let alone engage in interesting artistic creation. Through nearly 20 pieces/groups of works, fourteen artists have demonstrated the spiritual state of an era—the present situation of artists from different generations—born in the 70s, 80s, and 90s—under different historical backgrounds: confusion, bewilderment, self, full of fantasy, loneliness, denial, approval, escape, pursuit, longing, fear... In this way, they have broken the numerous boundaries between virtual and real, present and past, self and other, collective and society in myriad forms, opening up the possibility of reflecting on the mysteries of life.
This exhibition, centered around concepts, showcases the works of 14 diaspora Chinese artists, presenting their diversified creative styles and rich thematic connotations, reflecting the state of life of the Chinese diaspora community and their profound reflections on social phenomena. 4C Gallery is honored to continue the spirit of Chinese contemporary conceptual art from the late 1980s and 1990s, and to present the latest works of emerging Chinese artists abroad.
Rainbow box project发起人，An Art Museum策展人。主要从事中国当代艺术史论研究与写作、当代艺术批评实践、展览策划及独立艺术空间的创建与运营等工作。目前已策划与合作艺术项目200多场，其中艺术家个展50余场。