Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on November 1 of Labor and Time curated by Cui Cancan, joint curator of Fuck Off II at the Groninger Museum, a recreation of the notorious exhibition in Shanghai in 2000. He has described it as “a discussion on the creation as well as being a response to pressing issues in the art of today.” In this exhibition, starting with a set of 24 clocks by Meng Baishen (b. 1980), time is the unifying element as it circulates in space. The clock-faces from which the hands have been removed no longer represent the passing of time although the sounds of numerous clocks provide audible witness. As he covers the clock-faces with multiple layer of graphite, he provides evidence of his existence through the labor-intensive procedure. Time is also manifested in the circular lines reminiscent of tree-rings that Jiang Bo (b. 1984) carves in the large stones he collects from riverbanks, lines that also resemble the patterns of eddies in fast-flowing water, no-sooner formed than they disappear.
Cui next directs the viewer’s attention to objects formed through hard labor in which, he says, “time becomes heavy and deeply powerful.” The hammering sound that fills the gallery in which the copper reliefs of Kang Jing (b. 1982) are exhibited record their making and can last indefinitely, unlike the limited time period in which they are fabricated. These contrast with the more nuanced sense of time of Ni Youyou (b. 1984) who hand-carves a ruler to measure time’s passing or fills old boxes with objects including measuring devices, fossils, even living creatures such as tortoises to show how the imagination plays a crucial role in our experience and understanding of temporality.
Certain activities such as the growing of food-stuffs and agriculture may be described as “timeless.” Yan Bing (1980) evokes memories of rural China in his installation consisting of a sack spilling wheat onto the ground as the chaff flies off in an imaginary wind and settles on the wall. In contrast Li Qing (b 1981) looks back only a few decades in his dilapidated window in which distant memories of old Shanghai are fused with the glazing. His nostalgia contrasts with the willing acceptance of the present as revealed in the physical aspects of the paintings of Chen Yufan (b. 1973). The void in the middle of the painting hanging on the wall was formed by painting round the disc covered with multiple layers of paint lying on the floor in front of it.
Cui situates the work of the artists he has selected “on the intersection between the axis of time and space. In the fast-paced, segmented and fragmented art system as it exists today, Labor and Time alienates itself from the specious concept of the avant-garde and resists all shortcuts at the same time as it is also a proactive response to the superficial values of the mass popular culture. It is a unique expression of the “here and now”; it is not transformed by the future; it only emerges from its own history.”