2013.08.28 Wed, by Translated by: Fei Wu
Gaze: “Close to the Warm”

“Close to the Warm”: Wang Zhiyuan solo exhibition

Force Gallery (798 Art Zone, No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China) Jul 5–Aug 5, 2013

Compared with his more famous installation pieces, Wang Zhiyuan’s “Close to the Warm” (2013) is much “calmer.” It lacks the handicraft-like intricacy of his Taoist-themed works such as “Two from One” (1997). Nor is it in any way similar to “sculpture of female underwear created with mass production techniques” (quoted from Huang Du on “Object of Desire” and “Underpants—Heart”). Rather, the artist has simply hung a single light bulb on a white wall, around which he has pasted countless tiny slips of densely-spaced paper printed with different words. Viewers who have the patience to read them will soon discover that the closer they get to the light bulb, the closer the words are spaced. In addition, the words nearer to the light are more positive and complimentary in meaning (words like, “upright,” “dedication,” “harmony,” etc), while words far from the light are darker and more negative in tone (e.g. “worry,” “darkness,” “disillusionment” etc).

Here Wang Zhiyuan has created an exaggerated version of the “moth to the flame” phenomenon by heightening the cultural and political tendency to see light as a source of “glory,” “greatness,” and “warmth” (traditional attributes of the Party). In other words, the flurry of excitement caused by the “light source” is similar to the instinct possessed by many animals— phototaxis — an automatic movement in response to light. Wang’s appropriation of this effect is clever, but also quite edifying — the slips of paper scattered on the ground beneath the installation seem to represent insects which have flown too close to the flame — provoking us to consider how such a method might be used for pest control.

Wang Zhiyuan, “Close to the Warm”, mixed media, dimensions variable, 2013