Dragon Liver Phoenix Brain: Eight Emerging Artists

OCAT Shanghai
  • Lu Pingyuan, Do Not Open It-224*185.5cm, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai
  • Lu Pingyuan, Do Not Open It-224*185.5cm, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai
  • Yu Ji, Pataauw Stone, installation view, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Beijing Commune, Beijing
  • Yu Ji, Pataauw Stone, video still, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Beijing Commune, Beijing
  • Yu Ji, Pataauw Stone, video still, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Beijing Commune, Beijing
  • Li Liao, I Stand by Justice, video still, 2015. Photo: © Li Liao, courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery, New York
  • Li Liao, I Stand by Justice, video still, 2015. Photo: © Li Liao, courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery, New York

Dragon Liver Phoenix Brain: Eight Emerging Artists
OCAT Shanghai
December 10, 2016–February 12, 2017

Nabuqi’s Object No. 3 (2014), a tangle of thick, crisscrossed black nylon ropes on hidden mechanical pulleys, hung like a slowly changing cat’s cradle between makeshift rooms, (literally) ties together Colin Siyuan Chinnery’s brilliantly curated exhibition of eight young artists at OCAT Shanghai. The title of the show, Dragon Liver Phoenix Brain, suggests something playfully rarified—but what characterizes the show is not its preciousness but its restraint, its overwhelming sense of anticipation, and, like Nabuqi’s ropes that unexpectedly block our path, its caution.

Lu Pingyuan’s Do Not Open It (2015), twin wooden doors illuminated by a small spotlight, functions like a dare. We know the doors lead nowhere, but we still find ourselves asking what delicious horrors lie in wait. There are other forms of foreboding/anticipation in the exhibition that use even subtler hints of narrative to draw us in. Yu Ji’s Pataauw Stone (2016) consists of two facing video projections presented in a soft palette of greens, browns, and pastels. We hear a woman breathing heavily as she struggles to pull something through the underbrush. Is this a stone or a body dragged through the woods, along a stream, and eventually into the hills? Yu Ji is able to coax us away from certainties by directing our attention to details like the floating movement of the woman’s paisley dress against reeds and branches, and to the sound of wet earth under her feet. We are ensnared again and again by these details with each unfolding scene. Like David Robert Mitchell’s supernatural thriller, It Follows (2015), Pataauw Stone and Li Liao’s I Stand By Justice (2015) evoke feelings of pale, spectral violence that take ahold of the everyday. After a perturbed young man smokes and paces for several minutes on a city street, I Stand By Justice eventually erupts in real violence—a young woman, her identity hidden behind pixilation, is thrown to the ground, kicked, and eventually limps away. The video resets and we are back to the pacing man, now aware of the unexplained bludgeoning to come.

Of course not everything is so bleak. In Lin Ke’s Sticky-line (2015), the Eiffel Tower is superimposed on a Chinese cityscape, accompanied by a strange little voice that occasionally chirps “sticky line.” Our eyes follow an oversized computer cursor arrow as it drags a line in different directions, originating from the tip of the tower. The swirl of the line is mesmerizing and it becomes clear that the cursor is trying to rid itself of this pesky line, futilely spinning and pulling in an attempt to free itself. Sticky-line is a wonderful summation of Dragon Liver Phoenix Brain: sharp, understated, technically masterful, a little perplexing, but most of all keenly aware of its audience. The works are sophisticatedly goading of a viewership that might otherwise hope for clumsy tropes of adolescent sex and death from “emerging artists.” Alas, youth always disappoints.

Photo captions
Photo 1 : Lu Pingyuan, Do Not Open It-224*185.5cm, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai
Photo 2 : Lu Pingyuan, Do Not Open It-224*185.5cm, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai
Photo 3 : Yu Ji, Pataauw Stone, installation view, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Beijing Commune, Beijing
Photo 4 : Yu Ji, Pataauw Stone, video still, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Beijing Commune, Beijing
Photo 5 : Yu Ji, Pataauw Stone, video still, 2015. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Beijing Commune, Beijing
Photo 6 : Li Liao, I Stand by Justice, video still, 2015. Photo: © Li Liao, courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery, New York
Photo 7 : Li Liao, I Stand by Justice, video still, 2015. Photo: © Li Liao, courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery, New York

sticky-line / 黏糊糊的线 from linke waco on Vimeo.

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