artists & participants
From January 16 to February 28, 2016, OCAT Shenzhen will present the group exhibition Adrift in OCAT Hall B. Turning its gaze upon the Pearl River Delta region and taking the sociological issue of population mobility as its foundation, this exhibition observes and reflects on the phenomenon of migration through the contexts of the works on display, and the dialogues that occur between them. Most of the participating artists are from Guangdong province, and take their personal experiences or research as the starting point for their creations, contemplating the issue of migration with poetic sensitivity, intellectual critique, or nomadic openness.
The exhibition title, Adrift, is taken from Taiwanese writer Wang Hui-ling's eponymous novel, whose nonlinear narrative weaves Eileen Chang's itinerant life experiences and artistic creations closely together. Several periods of migration in Eileen Chang's life endowed her with the perspective of a foreigner, through which she observed, recalled, and eventually wrote on the elusiveness of an age of turbulence. The same case holds for this exhibition's artists, whose most personal, poignant, insightful and provocative creations often grew out of a fragile and restless context. Adrift takes inspiration from the symbiotic relationship between an artist's creation and his or her travels through a foreign land: What leads us to choose to head towards a foreign place? Is it really a choice, and do these transplants really have total agency? Is it a mere illusion that "homeland" and "foreign land" stand as polarized, both semantically and emotionally? Meanwhile, the romantic feelings embedded in the notion of drifting and the reality of it are also interwoven in the exhibition's emotional layers.
The last chapter of Homer's epic, The Odyssey, tells of the homecoming of the war hero Odysseus, after spending ten years lost at sea due to having angered Poseidon—interestingly, in its contemporary expression, anchored within a consumerist society, "odyssey" has been simplified, becoming synonymous with the idea of a "grand journey" or a "romantic adventure,"(1) just like the exuberantly romantic dialogue in The River and the Pond. That the significance of returning home is largely erased by the emphasis on "grand journey" perhaps results from the absence of any reason to stay anywhere in our present, where labor, consumer goods, spare parts and accessories, information, and knowledge are in a state of unceasing flow—in the context of neo-liberalism, "drifting" is at once the process and the destination. The subject of examination and discussion in Adrift is precisely individuals and communities in this condition: diasporic wanderers who shuttle back and forth on the Baltic sea; new communities migrating from the mainland to Hong Kong; and the crowds that drift about in the urbanized area of Shenzhen. Just like the foreign land that bears the weight of romantic fantasies and thrills of adventure, the home to which the hope of a stable life is entrusted is often also an oceanic phantom which, like a spectre, floats in the bubbles in fish tanks and rests in the yellowed corners of family albums. As a fictitious dichotomy, "foreign land" and "home" constantly beckon voyagers on the ocean to undertake an eternal back-and-forth. To be aware of the universality of this frail living condition does not mean adapting to a vagrant life at sea; rather, it urges us to identify and challenge the socio-economic and political undercurrents, and their over-simplified dichotomy.
Adrift is a collaborative project by young curators Leo Li Chen, Qu Chang, and Wenqi Zeng.