Notes on Curation: the Making of "Heaven" Author:Wu Hong Date: 2013-09-04 Size:
Anyone who knows him would agree that Qiu is a sentimental and passionate artist. His earlier works make frequent use of the horse image, which, of course, is presented through personification. We are aware that horses are closely related to the development of human civilization, so that the culture revolving around horses is also a reflection of men themselves.

  Standing in opposition to this theme of “soul redemption” is another piece of installation titled “Side B of Heaven”. It has something to do with Qiu’s brief working experience in his early days and presents a work shed commonly seen in the “world’s mega factory” of Pearl River delta region. Numerous yet petty migrant workers have gathered in this area and worked to improve their material life. But while aspiring for a material heaven, at the same time they have to put up with great inner struggle and suffering. The anxiety, aspiration, contrariness and anger build up in their heart, forming an invisible darker side of “heaven” which exists in contrast to its visible affluence and glamour. In this way, the installation warns us of the dangers of promoting a GDP-driven pattern of economic development.

  Exhibited in the second hall on the left is also a piece of installation named “Heaven No.2”. It is made up of sound, video, smoke and physical entities. After entering the audience will see scattered visual images floating dreamily. The psychological experience is further intensified by the light smoke drifting on the site, to which a mysterious atmosphere is added by the sound of vultures tearing dead bodies apart. Passing the folding screen at the hall’s entrance, audience would be exposed to a set of shiny weapons hanging at the center, which tell them that these are the very source of the brilliancy presented just now. It implies that to fulfill the desires which grow in our heart, heaven, or the end that is much chased after, becomes dominated by the means adopted, which create dark forces inside men.

  Paintings by Qiu are on display in both the halls on the right. Exhibited in the first one are mainly previous works that focus on horses. In this series, with a change in the context, we can see that “horse” is no longer an independent and symbolic vehicle of meaning. Instead, it has become an element of meaning embedded in the context itself. A group of yellow figures, which serve as the end of this series and the beginning of the next stage in Qiu’s creation, continue the color used to paint the horses. However, their facial expressions are dull and inert, which might lead us to think, is it the quietness one experiences after struggles, neighing and feeling hopeless?

  In the second hall we can see his latest series “Mountains and Rivers in Heaven” as well as “Bird of Paradise”. The first one adopts the traditional composition in Chinese landscape painting, which, according to the symbolic schema of “heaven” understood by Chinese traditional culture, uses the artist language of oil painting and the grafting of materials and turns it into a scene that suggests such psychological implications as dangers and crisis. Is the burning “heaven” where fire erupts from the ground sending a prophecy about our culture or society? If so, who are the “birds of paradise” that walk through the heaven? Are they the savior or prophet?

  Next comes the exhibition space in the passage. It is the central axis of the whole building through which the audience has to pass. When passing it, the spacial framework also concerns time, turning the axis of space into an axis of time. It is along the passage that another piece of work created in 2012 unfolds, which represents Qiu’s attitude towards the century prophecy about “2012”. It has been circulated among the Mayans yet never has solid proof, so why is the prophecy still widely recognized in the world? Qiu is interested in how the “2012” doomsday prophecy was created and in what kind of psychological isomorphism it comes to be interpreted.

  So he created “Diaries in Heaven” in tribute to 2012. From the first day of the year, the artist produced a painting everyday based on the news he was exposed to through cell phone, the most convenient media for us to receive information today. There is an APP named “News Headlines” which presents news quite differently. While other APPs would first edit the news in a chronological order, in other words, arrange it like the traditional media according to significance, “News Headlines” does not enforce the personal understanding or will of the editors on the users. Its editor does not decide what we would read first and second, which is instead determined by how much attention has been given by the readers. The pieces of news with the highest click rate tops the chart for us to read first. The message here is that in an age of “we media”, what we see and would like to see everyday is constructed by ourselves. We are not the passive receivers of information, Rather, we actively participate in building a general perception of the world. As for “2012”, be it a global prophecy about disasters or a metaphor for the current pattern of civilization development, how on earth did it come into being? In fact, “2012” reflects no more than what we need deep inside, which needs to be projected on a more general level and targeted at a wider and bigger audience by the means of media. In this way, it came to be constructed in the whole world. Therefore, this piece of work seeks to explore the relationship between the “2012” as a cultural metaphor and our inner world through “visual diaries”.

  To stress that the news presented comes from “media transmission”, the caption that accompanies the painting has been printed on the canvas in the way of screen printing. What’s more, it is also stated which media organization the news comes from. So the work represents the general visual perception we have about last year, 2012. Such a perception is closely related to every individual’s expectation for the world as well as his anger and disappointment with it.

  At the end of the passage, after passing the axis of time filled with visual constructions, the audience would come to see an image of “guardian”, which is a group of sculptures that presents a personified vulture dragging a horse. As both the vulture and the horse have appeared in the works before, their coexistence in one single piece has a different semantic connotation. In the current pattern of civilization, the “utopia” prophecy, which is not only a theoretical hypothesis but has also been put into practice, can be represented in various ways. Despite the difference, there is a base for their coexistence: all of them are proposals to improve and save the real world. But if the salvation scheme of utopia ideals has in itself numerous problems as well, where exactly is the future for us?

  The last exhibition space is the affiliated hall, in which two pieces of works are on display. One of them is an installation titled “A Handful of Water”. The audience has been exposed to so many complicated art works at this stage that they should now be presented with a piece that is simple and calm. This work is a basin of water into which a fish has been put. A beam of light is projected onto the water so that when the fish swims and stirs the calm surface, a reflected image will appear and float on the wall. It is our hope that after a long series of complex visual experiences, the audience can look into their heart in a quiet space. The “handful of water” itself is pure and clean, just as the Sixth Patriarch Huineng has said, “there is nothing originally”. Whether the world is restless or motionless, simple or complicated, is in fact the projection of our inner world.

  Back to another visual works titled “The Delta Project”. As a reversal of the previous works’ semantic sequence, it returns to the scene of “spiritual city” in Wuming Buddhist College after presenting the materialism in Pearl River delta region. So the whole exhibition has a starting point with a religious connotation and eventually goes back to where it begins. It is not simply a return, but represents the ultimate questioning of human spirit that goes far beyond religious foreordination.

  1 2

[Editor] 常霞