The Elephant Escaped

2022.01.15—04.16

Artists: Fang Di, Li Ming, Peng Zuqiang, Shen Xin, Tao Hui

Curator: Yuan Fuca

The Elephant Escaped attempts to respond to contemporary society and life in the post-pandemic era. Through all-new commissions by five young Chinese artists, Fang Di, Li Ming, Peng Zuqiang, Shen Xin, and Tao Hui, the exhibition will present a dialogue between independent yet enmeshed elements.

The elephant is an allusion that has existed for centuries. The story of the blind men and the elephant shows the difficulties of identifying an elephant and, by extension, of grasping the contours of the truth. In George Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant,” elephants frequently destroying crops intensify the complex relationships between colonists and colonies. The northward journey of Yunnan’s wild elephants that started on March, 2020 revealed humanity’s irreversible influence on the environment amidst longer-term changes in nature. Elephants continue to give us visions of and warnings about power shifts. Here, the elephant escaping leaves a giant void, an indeterminate state: How can we lie fallow when inherent order has run aground, its corresponding temporal structures become invalid, and personal stories no longer follow neat progressive arcs?

In his January 2020 novel Wuxingzhe (Mistwalkers), Lu Nei traces his personal journey, while telling a polyphonic story that stretches from the 1998 floods to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Polyphony, a concept from music, originally referred to the combination of two or more melodic lines in a song, but it was later adopted by literary scholars to discuss the poetic qualities of a novel’s prose. Through non-linear narrative, Mistwalkers presents several characters amidst changing times, each with their own worlds, values, and independent consciousnesses. Through a material world comprised of multiple personalities and stories, we can appreciate the key role that large-scale population flows have had in shaping Chinese society. The drivers of globalization and marketization that underpinned those flows are still worthy of reflection. Considering the present, the last decade of contemporary history provides us with a passageway to memory and a support for psychological constructs.

Despite the mobility and rapid development of Chinese society at the beginning of this century, the pace of society today is transitioning from presto to ritardando. Individuals are troubled by the various obstacles to intellectual and physical communication. The escaped elephant is astonishing, reminding us that we have to confront those obvious yet constantly overlooked issues, restoring exhausted nutrients to the soil. Indeterminacy is not inevitable; what’s important is learning to embrace the eternal present, and even learning to appreciate deadlock. The Elephant Escaped continues the interrogation of a question that Macalline Art Center has explored since its founding: “How can I be plural?” We have continued to interrogate the ever-changing relationship between the individual and the collective, finding renewed hope for polyphonic artistic creation.

The Elephant Escaped was curated by Macalline Art Center artistic director Yuan Fuca, with assistant curators Chen Yujian and Clement Huang. The exhibition space was designed by Ballistic Architecture Machine.

 

About the Artists

 

Fang Di

Fang Di (b. 1987, Shenzhen, Guangdong) currently works in Shenzhen, China, Papua New Guinea. His work explores racism and social hierarchy through the news and current events. Switching between identities like a chameleon, he moves smoothly among different social classes. He sensitively absorbs and digests the wisdom and desire that arises from migration. He employs a range of artistic styles to explore the entanglements and meanings within urban life, bravely discovering how the definitions of special groups have been influenced by the global economy and nationalism and become important social fractures within a controlled, inverted reality.

Li Ming

Li Ming (b. 1986, Yuanjiang, Hunan) graduated from the China Academy of Art in 2008. He currently lives and works in Hangzhou. A self-directed working style is a through line in Li Ming’s video practice. As an effective means of expression, video easily transforms creative motivation. He often finds an image after letting the concept of a work ferment in his mind, which means that his work is always spontaneous. This creative context is best understood as a first-person narrator who is, like the viewers, letting matters take their course, rather than a game carefully planned by an artist.

Peng Zuqiang

Peng Zuqiang (b. 1992, Changsha, Hunan) has exhibited work at the UCCA (Beijing, China), Times Art Center (Berlin, Germany), the International Documentary Film Festival (Amsterdam, Netherlands), the AntiMatter Film Festival (Victoria, Canada), and the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, USA). He has participated in the MacDowell, Skowhegan, and Core Program residencies and fellowships. In 2020, he won the Special Jury Prize at the Huayu Youth Awards and a Special Mention at the Festival Film Dokumenter (Yogyakarta, Indonesia) for his first feature film, Nan.

Shen Xin

Shen Xin (b. 1990, Chengdu, Sichuan)  creates moving image installations and performances that empower alternative histories, relations, and potentials between individuals and nation-states. They seek to create affirmative spaces of belonging that embrace polyphonic narratives and identities. Shen Xin’s most recent work, Brine Lake (A New Body), premiered at the Gwangju Bi- ennale, Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning (2021), and will have its North American premiere in their first US museum solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center (2021).

Tao Hui

Tao Hui (b. 1987, Yunyang, Chongqing) graduated from the  Oil Painting Department at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and currently lives and works in Beijing. Despite receiving a degree in oil painting, he primarily works in video and installation, refining and transforming personal memories, visual experiences, and popular culture to create new narrative modes and film styles. Focusing on issues of social identity, gender status, race, and cultural crisis, Tao Hui employs absurd, bizarre, and exaggerated scenes and characters that evoke metaphors and dislocations to present the collective experience of people today, prompting the audience to face their own cultural histories, lived circumstances, and social status.

About the Curator

 

Yuan Fuca

Yuan Fuca is the artistic director at Macalline Art Center, Beijing. She has worked to prepare for the institution’s launch since 2019. Yuan Fuca has previously held positions at Independent Curator International in New York City, Spacetime C.C. (the New York studio of American sculptor Mark Di Suvero), and the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation. From 2016 to 2019, Yuan co-founded and managed Salt Projects, a non-profit art space that offered a site for practice and exchange among young artists and practitioners. Fuca’s curatorial practice has been supported by Parasite (Hong Kong), Maxim Gorki Theater, Asia Society, Japan Foundation and New Century Art Foundation. She is the founding editor of Heichi magazine, the online bilingual publishing platform affiliated with Macalline Art Center. Her writing has been published on platforms such as Artforum, Artnews, BOMB, Flash Art, and Frieze.

 

 

Macalline Art Center is a practice-oriented site focused on contemporary visual inventions. The Center engages with artists and art groups by building physical and online communities through events and research. The Center is guided by the working processes of artists, constantly re-defining and testing itself and renewing perceptual and cognitive systems in contemporary situations and contexts.