Organized by guest-curator David Spalding, Curator at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing), Even in Arcadia combines photography and a single video work, made roughly ten years apart, to examine the far-flung fantasies, grim realities and stark contradictions that often define life in China today.
A selection of prints from Liu Gang’s series Paper Dream (2008) presents viewers with images appropriated from newspaper advertisements for upscale housing developments in Beijing. Shot with a macro lens in medium format (6 x 7), the images overflow with an absurd array of symbols that promise buyers a taste of the good life. Liu Gang’s series is not about luxury housing or the adverts that promote it per se. Instead, the artist remarks, “the works are about Chinese identity, as reflected in our dreams and desires.”
In contrast to the Photoshopped follies in Liu Gang’s work, Wang Jianwei’s documentary video Living Elsewhere (1997-1999) charts the daily existence of a group of farmers squatting in an abandoned complex of half-finished luxury villas in Sichuan Province. Documenting the stories of persons who are otherwise off the grid, Wang Jianwei focuses on the details of their domestic experience to comment on the schisms between luxury and poverty, aspiration and actuality that are symptomatic of the economic and social transformation China continues to experience.
April 2 - May 23, 2009
Opening Reception: April 2, 2009, 5 – 8 pm
Click on images for larger size.