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  • Fiona Prior



image: 'Bitcoin Mining and Field Recordings of Ethnic Minorities' (frame only). Liu Chuang. Courtesy of the artist and White Rabbit Gallery.

AND NOW, is the long-awaited exhibition that follows the previous White Rabbit Gallery's ‘Then’ exhibition.

With a penchant for obscure metaphors and cryptic imagery, the “Misty Poets” were a little-known movement that flourished in China during the turbulent years between 1979 and 1989. Challenging Maoist artistic ideology, their poems, like the clouds themselves, were veiled and nebulous. Today, as creative restrictions continue to expand and contract in China, their legacy of ambiguity and oblique condemnation endures ...

"The artists in AND NOW represent the vanguard of global contemporary art, their works no longer merely reflect the transformation of China but, instead, echo an entire world in flux. Eco-anxiety, governmental crackdowns, digital imprisonment disguised as liberation – it’s a brave new world that we share …

The above text (shortened slightly), comes straight from the White Rabbit Gallery website. It is hard to beat so I am not going to try. Instead I will draw your attention to two audio-visual works in ‘And Now’.

The first work is 'Bitcoin Mining and Field Recordings of Ethnic Minorities'. The artist Liu Chuang's ‘Bitcoin Mining ...’ is one of those works that makes your head spin with associations and ideas. It addresses the concepts of control through observance/subscription and takes us on a wild audio-visual journey through time and space that touches on energy sources, currencies and the value of outliers.

We are presented with sublime imagery ranging from ancient temples with power lines (just) discernable above their silhouettes, to notions of the invaluable untapped data of outlying tribal groups being colonised (intentionally/incidentally?) through their adoption of digitalised technologies. Fabulous use of imagery from film (Soderbergh’s ‘Solaris’ and Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’), black and white historic photos of multiple geographic realms, digitally generated patterns and rhythms, and drone-taken footage of deserted areas where new bitcoin operations have sprung ... The collapsing of fiction/reality in Chuang's work feels very like the collapse of real and virtual we live daily. Suggestion and metaphor stream evocatively.

image: 'Invocation of a Wandering Lake' (frame only), Patty Chang. Courtesy of the artist and the artist's website

My second selected work, Patty Chang’s ‘Invocation of a Wandering Lake’ is another work that deftly evokes our multi-dimensional experience. Not only is it a sorrowful record of a dead sperm whale that has been washed ashore, but also it is the artist’s record of her performing a ceremonial ablution on the gigantic mammal, as so many cultures do with their dead family and loved ones. Another section of the work has her performing the same ritual on the carcass of a rotting vessel that has been dry-berthed. 'Invocation of a Wandering Lake' is an incantation to deity, to a supernatural entity.

As always, White Rabbit brings us a powerful exhibition that stays in our minds and hearts.

Judith Neilson’s White Rabbit Gallery

Until 2 August 2020.

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