Engine: The Image-triggered Mechanism of Artistic Production
Curator: Hai Jie
Artists: Cai Dongdong, Chen Honghan, Gao Yan, Ren Han, Tang Nannan
Creative practice is increasingly endangering the traditional subject status of the image, turning it into a detonator that triggers the meaning in artist’s creative process or a new mechanism for artistic production. Currently, artists employ various materials to negotiate with the image and proceed to, like a sorcerer, link and transform the pictorial language and trans-media content of images and other media.
The subject status of the image is thus dissolved. The inherently passive act of image viewing thereby becomes a performance of constantly balanced posturing. The image possesses a new identity—“inciter of meaning”, its fundamental rights revoked. Set in the midst of a specific practice, it changes direct image capture into an implement of pictorial topology, a new context created from swapping image information with textual information. Image has even been critiqued, endlessly scribbled about, becoming something written or sketched, and extending into fields of sociology, a direction which originally the image doesn’t go.
Cai Dongdong works with photography. He begins by reading discarded negatives he shot himself and found photographs. By subjecting them to “topographical” treatment, he reactivates those positive parts of their inherent function. The methods of treatment include: utilizing the inherent attributes of pictorial symbolism to carryout semantic associations, symbolic grafting, intuitive guidance, visual disturbance, and displacement of medium. The ultimate result is image installation. Expressed in the materials, his attempts are realized by a variety of intervening actions such as drawing, painting, weaving, folding, stacking, tearing, poking, copying, abrading, collaging, crimping, burning, hollowing, and reversing images. Cai Dongdong refuses to accept the inherent meaning of an image and by taking these interventional actions to the extreme, he makes pictures awaken from their innate two-dimensional superiority to realize their true meaning.
In Chen Honghan’s work Cristina, he takes a picture of a French prostitute named Cristina and hollows out the image, creating distance from its inherently sexual imagery. Simultaneously, he fills Cristina’s outline with textual statements sourced from internet recruits about her experiences. In this work, we see pictorial ready-mades and textual installation, but aside from this we see a series of sociological scenes: the transaction (alluding to consumerism), the prostitute (alluding to identity), and corporeal experience (alluding to consumer mentality and body).
Artist Gao Yan uses images that he downloaded from the internet or photographed himself and (re)names them, fabricating an author, title, production method, display method and year of production, even generating feigned art criticism to transform image into text and thereby call into question contemporary art and its system of critique.
Ren Han downloads pictures of snowcapped peaks and adventure mountaineering from the internet and transforms them into black and white sketches. This single action removes the monumentality of the original image. Simultaneously, for the title of the piece, he maintains the random file name generated when using the “save as” function to download images online.
Tang Nannan’s video Faith Mountain uses 4000 high-speed filmed frames of waves he generated himself, which directly results in the extension and ambiguity of these waves captured in image, sculpture and video media. Additionally, it encourages transference of the cultural identity of waves and mountains.