Descending

Descending
— An Exhibition Review

By Luo Fei

In a room of the cultural space that has been adapted from an abandoned factory, there is a set of installation made of steel on the floor. It’s only as high as the knee, yet it almost filled the entire room. Audiences have to walk along the wall to go around it to observe it. Thick hemp ropes were tied tightly and neatly on the frame. The ropes went through the sleeves and pant legs of T-shirts and pants of different shades of green. They were from local second-hand market. They are either made stretched flat or slightly loosed hanging on the hemp ropes. The whole frame looked like a sturdy safety net, as if to catch fallen objects from the sky. From the knots on the frame and the ink marks whipped on the three pieces of paper exhibiting nearby, one can obviously feel the sense of power and determination.

As you get near this “safety net,” you could vaguely hear a low male voice (Chinese) and a crispy female voice (English) were reading something. Ah, it’s a poem – “Imaginary Routes”. It’s portraying a number of descriptive pictures, from the descriptions of open landscape quickly zooming in to narrations of the human condition. It’s a sound of self-reflection and contemplation. It seemed that the situation was tense. The contemplation and struggle that were hanging right above the earth was readily felt, like a very low cloud floated near from afar. The whole poem was hanged on the translucent paper next to the entrance to the “safety net”.

It’s a work by the Norwegian artist Sveinung Rudjord Unneland and the Danish writer Andreas Vermehren Holm during their stay in Kunming.

Also put on display were some Polaroid photos that Unirande and Holm took on the streets in Kunming. All of them were partially painted green, like the fences used to enclose the constructing buildings. It’s done in a way as if the city is always under construction – in fact that is the case. That is exactly what the exhibition is all about – a visible, never-finished world and an unseen and never-weary crowd in it.

In a society where social Darwinism is popular, life is bound to be an “Ascending Movement”. However, under the logic of the global capitalist economy, the people at the bottom always face the reality of being expelled. They are expelled from where they stay, where they work as well as their former life, and in turn they make a part of the creatures in the biosphere expelled from their habitat. Dignity is simply something too luxurious.

It seems that Unirande and Holm did not mean to present a tragedy, nor a hymn to praise the proletariat, but simply to outline, describe and examine the overall situation of mankind. It’s those who are at the bottom of the social landscape and put in the wide landscape that are interwoven, mutually constructed and stretched to form a solid “safety net”. Because everything will go back to the earth. And everything starts from here.

The exhibition combined the knowledge of the social framework and the contemplation related to existence, and mingled them with their visual forms and literariness. They formed a perceivable and readable passage that invites us to experience the inherent power of this “Descending Movement.”

December 6, 2017

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