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The Death of a River

mixed-media installation, 2m x 2m x 1m, 2019

This work is a successful failure – as a corpse, a died moment, and an isolated space that raises discussions about the overdeveloped technology and its gradual replacement of nature. It is a imaginary topographic map that accidentally stops at a moment that freezes a mechanical movement inside.


We have broken out of the circle of life, converting its endless cycles into man-made, linear events: oil is taken from the ground, distilled into fuel, burned in an engine, converted thereby into noxious fumes, which are emitted into the air. At the end of the line is smog. Other man-made breaks in to the ecosphere’s cycles spew out toxic chemicals, sewage, heaps of rubbish - testimony to our power to tear the ecological fabric that has. For millions of years, sustained the planet’s life.


In capitalist society, technology is in exchange of nature, while artificial environment is taking over the place of geological environment. Driven by capital and profit, the over-developed technology is covering and replacing the existence of nature. For example, look at a caged elephant in a zoo.  It survives for years in the space of a small parking lot, while its biological programming and its ancestral self wants and needs the wild and vast spaces of its origins. We are like animals in a zoo. We are caging ourselves. There are millions of children who have never slept out under the stars. There are millions of children who have never in their lives seen the stars, because of the air pollution and light pollution in their cities. For now, thanks to the technology, if we don’t see the stars, we make the star; if we didn’t protect the ancient buildings, we make archaized buildings; if we don’t have extra land and river, we use technology to cover and try to pretend it is able to replace the real nature


If we employed technological nature only as a bonus on top of our interactions with actual nature, then we would be in good shape. Unfortunately, we keep degrading and destroying actual nature, and are becoming increasingly impoverished for it.


Originally, this sculpture is supposed to mimetic a ‘fake’ natural flow – it uses industrial power (pump) to motivate the water circulation. The way water flows visually follows the natural law of river flow, which is ‘water always moves downwards’ - by carefully designing how the exposed plastic pipe being placed. In this way, this mechanical sculpture used to aim at presenting how a self-autonomous circulation is accomplished by technology with a mask of ‘natural law’ on.


However, due to the air pressure caused by the long pipes, the water stops moving half-way and destructs its original ‘natural’ law. It freezes the moment with water remains inside – no forward or backward. At this moment, this work achieves its own self-autonomy that abstracted from any other destined function or value. After this accidental stopped moment, I sealed the two sides of the pipe and left them like two tails exposed on the installation. The closed ends construct the work to be an isolated space. In this abstract space, the principle of circulation is cut off as a refusal response to the whole making process and the urban movement it calls to.


It is a fake, handmade landscape made with papier mache. Paper is like skin, at once 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. It also gives a handmade sense of imperfection to the work and allows the quirks and anomalies arising from the landscape to be revealed.


(details) The Death of a River

mixed-media installation, 2m x 2m x 1m, 2019

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