UCCA DIRECTOR'S FOREWORD
For In Drift , the latest exhibition in UCCA's long-running "Curated by..." series, internationally-acclaimed artist Gu Wenda introduces the work of Su Zhiguang, an emerging talent on the Chinese art scene.
For Su Zhiguang, dust is both medium and metaphor, a substance symbolic of the fluidity and chaos of China's modern cities. Like an urban anthropologist, he collects and archives the detritus of our floating lives, painstakingly cataloguing the samples for posterity. That this posterity is so tenuous, and his creations so ephemeral, only heightens the sense of beauty and pathos. Dust Manual , an elegant volume of 46 "sketches" rendered in dust, was modeled after Mustard Seed Garden , an early Qing Dynasty manual of painting. But unlike the original, which remains in print to this day, Su Zhiguang's creation is a fragile codex, a text whose wisdom seems destined to fade away.
- Jérôme Sans, UCCA Director
Nearly a century ago, Marcel Duchamp returned to New York from Paris bearing an unusual souvenir: a small glass ampoule filled with "Paris air." He had sealed the bottle before leaving Paris and carried it to New York, where he presented it to one of his friends as a gift. The act of physically transporting a naturally-occurring substance and transplanting it into an unfamiliar environment is thoroughly Duchampian: equal parts wit, whimsy, mischief and optimism. In New York, a phial of Parisian air is transformed into an exotic artifact, symbolizing nostalgia for home, drifting and loss, the sealing off of the self, and the danger of assimilation...
Using 256 different "dust samples" collected from 3 locations in Beijing's Chaoyang District – Xiaoguan, Hepingjie and Hepingli, respectively – artist Su Zhiguang created the three works in this exhibition: Dust Manual, Dust Tiles and Dust Insects, Dust Flowers . These works reveal material drift and humanist notions of survival, as well as the cross-pollination of eastern and western culture.
Artist Su Zhiguang describes it this way: "Wind shifts dust from one place to another, scattering the 'wanderers far from home' into every possible corner. Before they are eventually swept into some confined space where they will linger long, they enjoy a supreme form of freedom..." "Soon upon entering a building, they are met with mops, cloths and soapsuds. They slumber in the drains and sewers until, one day, the city experiences earthshaking changes that set them drifting on the wind once more..." "Collecting is a form of behavior not unlike the wind. Gathering the dust that has settled over the streets of Beijing and reassembling it in an exhibition affords it the opportunity to be seen as something extraordinary, viewed as a cultural specimen in its own right
— Gu Wenda
May 1, 2011, en route to New York.