From A Winter Solstice Prayer series


A WINTER SOLSTICE PRAYER exhibition Statement

A map says to you, “Read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not.”

It says, “I am the earth in the palm of your hand. Without me, you are alone and lost.”

And indeed you are. Were all the maps in this world destroyed and vanished under the direction of some hand, each man would be blind again, each city be made a stranger to the next, each landmark become a meaningless signpost pointing to nothing.

-- Beryl Markham, 1983


Considering map as a form of power-knowledge, Ran Zhou’s solo show A Winter Solstice Prayer focuses on destructing map, while reconstructing its relationship with the imaginary landscape. It attempts to enlarge the humanize aspect of map to reexamine the cultural implication of national boundary and the migration issue happens worldwide. Using black and white as the base tone, this series combines mixed-media sculptures, paintings, and organic plants to tell different stories of migrant, family gathering, and the trauma of illegal border crossing happening at present. Projecting Zhou’s multi-cultural background onto a global vision, A Winter Solstice Prayer attempts to use a metaphorical language to balance the abstract and narrative, while exploring the tension between the heavy social reality and her Chinese poetic romance.


sculpture/sculptural painting, 52 x 52 x 7 inch, 2019

          This work was made in New York in early March 2020, right before the US declared Public Health Emergency of COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, the lockdown of Wuhan (and some other cities around), China, where the pandemic originated, was going to the last stage. At the time, China was the first and the only country to enforce the quarantine and lockdown of cities and later whole provinces, starting at the end of January. Although such measures are a very old tool of epidemic control, their use at the scale of a large city such as Wuhan or the even larger scale of provinces was controversial among experts at the time, with questions on their effectiveness and their ethics. Some public health experts, while not always condemning the measure, raised the issue of the inevitable psychological toll such measures would have. An ex- World Health Organization (WHO) official who headed the organization's Western Pacific Region during the SARS outbreak said that "the containment of a city [hadn’t] been done in the history of international public health policy." The WHO called the decision to quarantine Wuhan "new to science". By early April, all lockdowns had ended or relaxed to a certain degree as the cases started to dwindle and the outbreak had come under control.

          This sculpture Enclosure presents an inundated map with black ink being surrounded by white mountains. The mountains white desert made by papier-mâché, which is frail and robust,  susceptible to puncture and able to weather the years. Unlike clay or cement, papier-mâché has a special duality — lightness and play hinting at emptiness and discontent — that strengthens the unsettling and riveting sense of the work. The basin of map, including the ink flood, is being frozen by resin, like the moment everyone was paused and trapped. The inner is dirty, chaotic, and dark, while the outside is a total white desert. 

          Enclosure is a natural expression of my feeling as a Chinese living abroad, at the time witnessing the dilemma of residents in the locked cities online. On the one side, hundreds and millions of locked people were struggling against the COVID-19 and the derivative problems of the lockdown policy in China; on the other side, the life in Canada and US is running as usual, while no one seemed to take what was happening in China seriously and live their own lives. Not even mentioning they are losing the chance of learning the lesson from China and preventing the world from a global crisis. The binary sense of reality, as well as the overload of information, was ruptured and overlapped. The locked cities were like an enclosed space covered by vacuum glass – we see what is inside but cannot hear its voice.


Exhibition view at Volta Art Fair 2020, Metropoitan West, New York

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