• LOST HORIZON
  • Artist: Xu Zhe
  • Critic: Fan Lin
  • Opening: 16:00 – 18:00 / 15.01.2011
  • Duration: 10:00 – 18:00 / 16.01.2011 – 22.04.2011 Dialy
  • Address: ANART. 2F, Building 13, M50, Shanghai.

works here

Lost Horizon
Fan Lin

'Lost Horizon' originates from 'Animal Farm'! This excitement and restlessness pictured itself in the forms of settings and roles, soon determines my way to appreciate Xu Zhe's works.

In my vocabulary, 'George Orwell' belongs to certain codes needed when I am looking for comrades. '1984' planted deep in my heart for years, has grown into a towering tree. Mostly when I smell an indistinct sad and doubtful foreordination, I would detect the possible accordant with 'Animal Farm'; the newly translated 'Coming up for Air' represents another side of Orwell's verbal image, which is nostalgic and humorous but still maintains Orwell's characteristic acuity and grief. That has also become the topic that links certain people up. At the first sight of Xu Zhe's 'Lost Horizon', a familiar 'smell' surged and I was overwhelmed by joy.

However, when the author said that he hadn't read Orwell's works as many as I had and the original was only one clue of the photographs, I began to be vigilant and correct my point of view. Then I found Xu Zhe has a distinctive talent which I would like to summarize as 'weakening'.

On one hand, he admits that he is inspired by Béla Tarr's movie aesthetics and George Orwell's novel 'Animal Farm'; on the other hand and more important, he quickly reveals the clue of his creation, which convinces people that the story itself has been dissolved in the scenes. Neither the structure of the series nor the composition of a single photo follows the plot of 'Animal Farm'. Although divorced from reality, the series is essentially as absurd, horrible and negative as the story.

This capacity of approaching the essence has run through Xu Zhe's works for many years. He once made an installation of a 'woodpecker' composed by circuit boards and other gears which peck in a tender sound. Xu Zhe, with the expressions of the new technology and new medium time, yearns for childhood memory. He's not a literary youth but in his work, he recalls one detail in Yu Hua's 'Brothers' that a teenager holds a telegraph pole listening to the sound of the current. No matter word or image, these readings help Xu Zhe start narration straight to the point in an individual way after his study in France.

While weakening others' influences, Xu Zhe begins strengthening his own style. 'Lost Horizon' shall be regarded as a prominent land mark.

Xu Zhe fabricates a convincing geographical environment with documentary photography and 'records' the happenings with the camera. As fictive pictures are combined and overlapped by imaginary and memorial fragments, what each audience receives is the most intense expression of absurdity. The world shall be more evident when seen in reverse. This is exactly what Xu Zhe wants to emphasize. Among those who see the world in reverse, German Neo-Expressionist Georg Baselitz is the most famous for upside-down images. The characteristic style of his painting is to recklessly invert portraits on canvases. Portraying the eccentric emotions of the modern people, Baselitz's expression doesn't belong to any extraction of realism. The Neo-Expressionism adopts the individual style from the Expressionism in ways of expression, further leads to the position against the traditional aesthetic standards and gradually shows a firm attitude. In some way, Xu Zhe has been carrying on the same thing despite that the images are not upside-down.

The artists working with cameras are bound to encounter the problems of geographic locations, which is naturally connected with the fist function of a camera lens: capturing an object. Of course, the 'geographic locations' cover a wide range of features including scenes, races and cultures, etc. Even when looking at photographs created in an artificial environment, people tend to start appreciating the works from recognizing these features. Xu Zhe seems not to take any feature into account no matter from object or method. This is why his works feel intense. Therefore, he adds some acquainted features of our time in some scenes so as to mentally and magically accord with Orwell.

Essentially in Xu Zhe's works, we can find influences from both George Orwell and Italo Calvino, but he doesn't follow their ways. Instead, he specially weakens their touches till his own style emerges. At this point, reverse is so direct that it strongly equals to negative.

Translation: Fan Chen
翻 译:范 晨