Mulan River - Cuò
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Blue Mountain Contemporary Art is proud to present an exhibition from artist brothers Chen Yufan and Chen Yujun, Mulan River - Cuò. Collaborating with Petach Tikva Museum of Art in Israel, the exhibition will open on 14th of September and run until 17th of December.

Take the virtual tour of the exhibition




In Southern Fujian dialect, ‘Cuo’ means ‘Home’. Five years ago, at the group exhibition ON|OFF China's Young Artists in Concept and Practice, held by the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Mulan River | Cuo made its first appearance. Chen brothers used the architecture of their hometown of Putian as a reference, and collected various readymade objects with regional character (such as discarded doors, windows, furniture, lumber, tiles and books) to create roughly twenty “shipping crates” of various sizes. They then combined these “shipping crates” into a giant architectural facade that drew from the classic “monument arch” form to convey their remembrance and imagination of their hometown. Hence, “these ‘shipping crates’ became like suitcases, constantly changing their arrangements as they traveled around the world with the exhibition and were presented in different cultural spaces, telling the story of this fluid homeland.”

 Today, as the Mulan River Project becomes embedded in the unique historical, geographical, religious and traditional structure that is Israel, it is again reinterpreted both in terms of form and meaning,  and through various interactions, clashes, intersections, fusions and symbioses between the visible and invisible, turning the space, time and gaze that is “Israel” into a part of the Mulan River, and evolving into a space or realm that fuses all manner of religious, moral, cultural and political conflicts and struggles between various values. One could say that the artists are seeking the possibility of a mirror and lens between the Mulan River and Israel. The many insecure and fragile temporary relationships they are constructing are also metaphors for the geographic circumstances of Israel.

Lu Mingjun

 

If we look back on the developmental trajectory of the Mulan River Project series, we can clearly see the gradual assimilation of a new artistic concept and new spiritual experience. The “installation” does not serve as some new “contemporary form” in the Mulan River Project; it is just that the “substantive spatial presence” is more suited to the expression of their inner experience. Furthermore, the Mulan River Project is not a tool for them to criticize reality or deconstruct mainstream values, but for them to probe their own complex emotional entanglements in their experience of drastic social change. In fact, the bleak and heavy historical perspective, and plain, simple yet passionate emotional attitude in Mulan River | Home have touched on the hidden spiritual dilemma of this era in a profound way.

The year 2008, when they began the Mulan River Project, represented a time of emotional catharsis for the “post-70s” generation, an expression of a unique youthful experience, of “brutal youth” and the “anime generation.” A decade later, as those artists face increasingly serious tests, the art of the Chen brothers has met with wider recognition and affirmation. Tracing the cause of this, it is not only because the Mulan River Project touched on the nostalgia of an era, but more importantly because their art has come to embody the relationship between art and new social ideas and passions with ever greater clarity. The elegant and profound visual feel of the artworks has come to take on more of a Chinese air, and the epic proportions of the artworks, with their bleak, heavy and yet still romantic emotional bearing, are bringing greater clarity to the increasingly mature artistic character of the “post-70s artists.”

Fang Zhiling

 

Mulan River refers to that local geographic position, while also symbolizing a fluid cultural space. This concept of “fluidity” is not only manifest in the Chen brothers’ content and subject matter, but more importantly, it brings a new understanding of their working approach to art. In the Mulan River Project, their focus has shifted from the artwork at the fore to the background dimension which gave rise to the artwork, the cultural and conceptual background, as well as the material and production practice. Thus, a key property of the Mulan River Project is its reframing of the entire chain of artwork production and exhibition. Those components that were once cut off by the “frame” or the “plinth,” those things that serve as process and conditions, such as sketches, photographs, castoff materials, packaging materials and exhibition spaces, and the relationships between all of these elements, are treated as language that can be selected and deployed. In this sense, the Mulan River Project is a continuing art project, rather than a series of individual artworks.

Bao Dong