Wang Bing: Experience and Poverty | Liu Zhan: The Mysteries of Animal Reproduction

  • Artist: Wang BingLiu Zhan

    Date: Nov. 18 - Dec. 31, 2017(Privateview:Nov. 18,2017)

    Wang Bing: Experience and Poverty
    Curated by Yang Beichen

    It was nearly a century ago that Bertolt Brecht loudly proclaimed ‘Remove Every Trace!”It was a classic modernist political call to arms, marking an aspiration to locate a rupture and displace a particular moment, a time when the tide of history recedes to lay bare ‘poverty’ in order to enable the production of something ‘new’ to begin once more. Yet similar to Wang Bing’s video workTraces(in Chinese the character is closer to ‘relic’) these traces have to be retrieved little by little. The lens gathers things, recording as it moves between the course grains of the camera film and the sound of the machinery. It is as if the artist enters into the scene of a long forgotten place, searching like a detective in an inhospitable terrain. Abruptly something might capture his attention like a bottle of alcohol or there might be a close-up of either a stone or a bone. History has inevitably persevered amongst these objects, finding within them a silhouette or thread connecting them back to the past - the specter of history simply cannot help but initiate an oppositional stance to this poverty as it becomes concrete.


    Wang Bing persistently chooses to work within a state of poverty and he continually looks to direct his camera lens towards a nameless person or place. Even so, there develops a possibility to enable these things to once more obtain a name again – from a mere possibility, he more importantly looks to aid these ‘nameless’ entities to preserve the unique state of their experiences. Wang Bing possesses perhaps one of the most unique perceptive abilities: sharp, resilient, focused to the point he could be considered stern – it means that as he continually handles the experiences and problems of others, he remains resolute and unwavering in the face of their adversities. In15 hours, we experience the presence of an artist in an extreme situation: for an exceptionally long duration, Wang Bing’s camera practically matches the incessant motion of bodies working or the sewing machines operating onscreen. They together bear the extreme monotony of work and laborious repetition of their movements to a degree that eventually the camera ceases to function as a device determining what is captured within the images - it refrains from pushing further any analytical perspective beyond what is experienced since the very beginning. It even refuses ‘observation’ – broaching a topic that returns towards a question of photography in the sense of a non-producer who negates the montage-producing machine. Similar to the machine beforeWorkers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon, where like a transporter he delivers to us an obscure moment in time.Mrs Fangalso embodies another kind of figure with ‘no name’: we are able to view how her life becomes deprived of language, or it could be said, that as she partakes in the utterances of the world it begins to lose its vitality. She seemingly transforms into an ‘actor’ as a counterpart to ‘He Fengming’- even with the silence of her language, nonetheless the light that occupies a place in the film demonstrates the passage of a life with such accuracy that it becomes exceedingly hard for the audience to confront the death of someone living.






    Georges Didi-Huberman once described Wang Bing way of filming things as a ‘Monad’ in the sense that he is able to ‘crystallise all the tensions within a historical configuration’.Mrs Fangis also a monad in the sense that it is an assembly of all the experiences that arise during the natural process of a life in decline, or perhaps we can regard this as a means to preserve her everyday life experiences in the name of death. In actuality,Mrs Fangand15 hourswere made very close to one another – we could almost imagine an intersection or overlap happening between the relatives visiting Mrs Fang and the workers from the garment factory - they are companions proceeding onwards outside the lens in a life of poverty. Moreover, in many ways this exhibition can be regarded as Wang Bing’s unflinching portrayal of all the poverty and experience of the times we are in.


    [1] From the first poem in Bertolt Brecht’s Reader For Those Who Live in Cities (Lesebuch für Städtebewohner).

    [2] Main character in Fengming: A Chinese Memoir by Wang Bing. In the documentary, He Fengming narrates her own experience in period between the 1940s and the 1990s.

    [3] Georges Didi-Huberman,L'oeil de l'histoire: Peuples exposés, Peuples figurants, p. 256.

    Yang Beichen




    Notes to the Editors



    Wang Bing (b. 1967, Xi'an) studied photography at the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Art and cinematography at Beijing Film Academy. Widely recognised as one of the foremost figures working as documentary maker, film director and visual artist, Wang Bing has produced a vast body of work that continues to examine the complex reality and history of China, includingWest of the Tracks(Tiexi Qu, 2002),Fengming: A Chinese Memoir(2007), andThree Sisters(San Zimei, 2012). In addition to his feature documentaries, he is also active in video installation, fiction film, and photography. Wang Bing’s work has been selected for major international film festivals, including Cannes Film Festival, Venice International Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival, and several have been recognised with international awards. Wang Bing has been honoured with retrospectives in museums, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2014) and CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco, US (2016). In 2017, he is participating in Documenta 14 in Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany. He was also the recipient of the 2017 EYE Art & Film Prize, and his workMrs Fangwon the Golden Leopard Award at the 70th Locarno Festival, Switzerland. Wang Bing’s work has been included in important museums and institutional collections including Centre Pompidou (Paris) and M+ Museum (Hong Kong).



    Dr Yang Beichen is a film lecturer and curator who graduated from Université Paris X and Beijing Film Academy. He currently is a lecturer at the Department of Dramatic Literature at the Central Academy of Drama, China. He was Senior Editor of Upcoming projects include Yang Beichen’s doctoral dissertation titled ‘Film as Archive’, which will soon be published.

    Liu Zhan: The Mysteries of Animal Reproduction

    The gallery is also very pleased to present a new site-specific work by Beijing-based artist Liu Zhan. A founding member of the art collective UNMASK, the exhibition is his first project as a solo artist and incorporates video, printed material, found objects, and sculpture together into a site-specific installation.


    After discovering a vast number of bootleg artworks related to UNMASK, Liu has initiated a project investigating the wider mechanics of legal, social, technological and commercial processes, which together define the labor of an artist working today. Examining the role of artist subjectivity in relation to these dynamics, he follows a trail of encounters leading beyond the confines of the contemporary art world and into a parallel, more complex reality of informal shanzhai economies.The Mysteries of Animal Reproductioneschews a moralistic position to the copies. He instead looks to unravel a network of relations so dispersed that they transcend beyond the autonomy of a given object, and that has expanded into a system so vast that it is impossible to comprehend in its entirety. Trained as a sculptor, Liu employs different skills in order to rationalize and forge his own way of connecting back to the original artwork he was once was author to. The artwork has since undertaken a long detour, proliferating into multiple versions beyond his control, and the artist observes how these newly augmented sculptures thrive within an ecology of ad-hoc indigenous vendors, flexible factory work floors, mail-to-order production lines and speculative enterprises that span multiple geographies.


    The exhibition alludes to a wider continuum of a history of art filled with works of questionable provenance, infringements of intellectual property, which happen within an economy of appropriation. The components of his original sculpture have evolved through the reverse engineering of others - echoing the dynamic of natural selection - their formal qualities have been overridden by adaptations determined by questions of efficiency, automation, craftsmanship and commercial survival. Liu has followed the elliptical journey of this sculpture, coming back full-circle to the original site of its first exhibition appearance, returning with a newly mutated body and displayed inside of a vitrine. A video and newspaper give insight to online conversations that position the artist directly in relationship with his counterfeiters, using a loop interspersed with footage from animal documentaries and other content. Displayed on the floor, Liu channels his experiences, creating a new sculpture controlled by a set of intuitive responses to the shanzhai object. Facing an endemic phenomenon that expands far beyond the intentions of the artist, the new sculpture is an attempt to reclaim something back. Rather than forcing redundancy onto the artist, the installation proposes a series of counter-methods to the audience.




    Liu Zhan (b.1976, Luoyang) currently lives and works in Beijing.

    He graduated from Sculpture Department, China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2002.