Liu Chuang: Island of Polyphony and the History of Silence

2024.04.27 Saturday 19:00


Cathay SHALA, No.870 Huaihai Middle Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai

Speaker: Liu Chuang

“The world's largest lithium lake – Uyuni Salt Flat – is less than 50 kilometers from the Potosí silver mines. In planetary history there have been two major intercontinental transfers of a single metal, of which the first was silver, the second lithium. They shared the same route: from the Atacama Desert in the Andes of South America, across the Pacific Ocean, to the East of Asia. This journey lasted five hundred years.” (the film’s voiceover fromc )

Artist Liu Chuang will share details about his research and thoughts behind the creation of Lithium Lake and Island of Polyphon. Liu Chuang’s video work eschews any abstruse references that can aid our understanding. In fact, the key to appreciating his work is—to listen! Three screens unfurl in a predetermined order. All traces of science and technology are erased. A truck laden with lithium ore traverses the screens in slow motion, while a Sophon (performer) wakes up in Salvador Allende’s socialist control room, the echoes of a mental collapse resurfacing in their memory. In a transformative process, salt turns into lithium ore. As the mineral journeys towards the oriental Silk Road, we see a flicker of compassion illuminated by the Sophon’s anthropological gaze. To put it in one phrase: one must listen quietly. You will hear the songs of whales and the murmurs of arboreal ethnic groups among the trees at the beginning of the film. Liu Chuang has created a term for these sounds—“the polyphonic chorus from the depths of the universe”. But how do these polyphonic strands intertwine, and how do we isolate them for individual observation?

About the Speaker: Liu Chuang

Liu Chuang currently lives and works in Shanghai. He works primarily with video, sculpture, readymade objects, and installation. His works often integrate long-term history and ecological arc for imagination, tracing the social, cultural and economic transformations of contemporary China. His works have been featured in art museums including: Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom (2024); Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2024, 2021, 2020, 2019); M+, Hong Kong SAR, China (2024, 2023); MAstrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway (2022, 2017, 2007) among others; His recent biennales and triennials include: 2nd Diriyah Biennial: After Rain (2024); 2nd Thailand Biennial: Butterflies Frolicking on the Mud (2021); 11th Seoul Mediacity Biennale: One Escape At A Time (2021); 3rd Guangzhou Image Triennale 2021: Intermingling Flux (2021); 12th Taipei Biennial 2020: You and I Don’t Live on the Same Planet (2020) among others; His film festival participation includes: 32nd Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), Singapore (2021); 66th Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival), Berlin, Germany (2016) and others; Numerous prestigious public institutions have collected Liu’s works, such as: Centre Pompidou, Paris, France, Tate Modern, London, UK; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; M+ Collection, Hong Kong, China; LUMA Art Foundation, Arles, France; Taikang Art Space, Beijing, China, among others.

Post-Performance Discussion

Liu Chuang’s works embody a vibrant polyphony, encompassing an array of topics and disciplines such as science, philosophy, anthropology, fictional historical moments, field recordings of birds, structure of a bitcoin miner, science fictional plots, mythological beasts and wonders in classical paintings—these theories, narratives, elements, and objects enhance, contend with, or sometimes deplete each other. Details of the research processes and thoughts behind the creation of the film enrich the concept of his work, simultaneously multiplying and obscuring its meanings.

Guest speakers of this post-performance discussion come from differing backgrounds, such as history of science, literature, media history, philosophy of technology, performance studies, film studies and others. They are curators, artists, scholars, art media editors, and professionals from other fields. Drawing on the work, Lithium Lake and Island of Polyphony, as well as Liu Chuang’s lecture in the Vortex program, they will develop discussions around a series of invisible threads of thought.

About the Vortex

VORTEX, launched by the MACA in Shanghai in 2022, is an art and cultural salon in the form of lecture performances occurring once or twice every month. The programme calls for non-institutionalised artistic and academic production in which contemporary art practitioners and scholars get to explore cross-disciplinarily the issues of the macro or micro, the global or local, the collective or individual. VORTEX, hence, is where you spin in the whirlpool of spontaneous whims and intuitive approaches represented by individual research and enquiries. Being present here at VORTEX, you are experiencing versatile forms of lecture performances that experiment with new mechanisms and methodologies.

The Macalline Center of Art (MACA) is a non-profit art institution located in the 798 Art District of Beijing and officially inaugurated its space on January 15, 2022. Occupying a two-story building with a total area of 900 square meters, MACA unites artists, curators, and other art and cultural practitioners from around the world. Through its diverse, ongoing, and collaborative approaches, the Center establishes a new site on the contemporary art scene. Guided by the “work of artists” and backed by interdisciplinary research, the Center aims to bring together a community passionate about art and devoted to the “contemporary” moment so as to respond proactively to our rapidly evolving times.