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Qiu Anxiong—Staring into Amnesia

1 November 2007

qiu anxiong

UNIVERSALSTUDIOS-BEIJING 2007.09.05–2007.11.15

In a feat consistent with China’s boundless capacity for manual labor, curator Pi Li has relocated a complete train car to the inside of his two-thousand-square-meet space for Qiu Anxiong’s exhibition, “Staring into Amnesia.” The sole entrance is a house-of-horrors low stairway funneling visitors into this gloomy train. Inside, twenty-four black-and-white archival film loops unfurl on the windows, a different projection for each seating compartment. Socialist workers climb mountains in epic infrastructure projects, or the pruned faces of model workers stare back at you, intercut with Qiu’s animations and are accompanied by twelve independent audio loops, ranging from folk music to experimental jazz. The heat, volume, and speed of visual information inside this time-capsule reliquary overwhelms.

Emerging from the cacophony at the opposite end of the train, one sees the half of the installation that gives it conceptual gravity: a nebulous cloud of screens suspended in the darkness amidst ambient electronic throbs. On the fragmented screens are three hikers escaping urbanity to amble in Sichuan’s mountains; their hiking gear and unfamiliarity reveal their trendy, middle-class interest in outdoor sports. Where Qiu’s previous installation work was criticized as lacking continuity, here the train’s allusion to progressions, journeys, and the evolution of the modern socio-political landscape links these two halves coherently. The exhibition creates a memorable space to address the conflicting relationship between the authenticity of individual memories and the reconstruction of official history, a theme haunting much art from China today.

originally published on artforum.com

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