2020.09.27 Sun, by
Double Moon
Going for a walk with Yuan Yuan and Wang Zhibo
in Berlin and Hangzhou

Wang Zhibo and Yuan Yuan on living between cities

by Wang Zhibo

It has been just over a year since we moved to Berlin. Yuan Yuan has finally made his first solo show “Irregular Pearl” (at Edouard Malingue Gallery in Hong Kong) after moving his studio here, and I have been busy preparing our dual exhibition project, which was intended for this year’s Frieze London, now delayed of course.

Like everyone, we’re going through a tough time. Even the toughness is unpredictable. Just like I have a fear of the sea, the ups and downs of the CoVid19 Virus pandemic gives me a feeling of sinking in the middle of the unfathomable ocean.

I relocated from Hangzhou to Berlin in August 2019 but before that, Yuan Yuan has been living here with our daughter, renovating our studio and arranging our new home. I don’t know how they managed to make it, but our six-year old daughter can take care of herself very well. She learned long before to wash her clothes. We originally planned to make a return trip to Hangzhou to visit our parents and where our new studio there is now completed.

All these years we’ve always had a very tight time-budget in our work. We’re skilled at compressing our life into a ball. In 2018 we moved both our home and studio twice. Another reason we needed to get back to Hangzhou is that our studio had been flooded in an accident two months after we left. It turned out that the master valve was a shoddy one. We didn’t know how long it’d been leaking, but until my relative found out, the studio had already become a 1.5m deep swimming pool.

[text continues below]


柏林工作室里进行中的作品,2020 Work in progress in the Berlin studio 2020


杭州工作室,2019, Hangzhou studio, 2019

Fortunately, the paintings survived, because I moved them carefully upstairs before I left. But nearly all of our painting materials and gears were completely damaged, including our air pump, Festool machines, expensive photographic equipment, and those painting knives Yuan Yuan had been collecting for years.

New neighbors


擦洗干净刚刚铺好的瓷砖地面,工作室明亮了许多,2019. New floor tiles make the studio much brighter, 2019.

Our Berlin neighbor, Florian, one of the owners of Chert Lüdde gallery, is interesting. He said he moved to Wilmersdorf  because he wanted to live away from art, but unfortunately, here there happen to be two medium-sized artist studios, a collector, and an important senior figure in the contemporary Chinese art scene. The building we are in was designed by a sculptor about a century ago.

袁远在柏林工作室准备6月初在香港马凌画廊的 “Irregular Pearl” 展览,2020

袁远在柏林工作室准备6月初在香港马凌画廊的 “Irregular Pearl” 展览,2020. Yuan Yuan preparing for his show at Edouard Malingue Gallery, early June, 2020


工作室一角1,2020, studio view, 2020


工作室一角2,2020, studio view 2020.

Outside the studio

柏林地铁一角 ,袁远拍摄,2017

柏林地铁一角 ,袁远拍摄,2017. A corner of the Berlin metro system, 2017 (Photo Yuan Yuan)

A few years ago, every time we traveled to Europe, we always spent time lingering in second hand book stores and museum book stores, indulging ourselves in voluminous books and documents. But we could not take home too many because of the weight limit, so gradually the idea of having a studio. We wanted to have a library and data bank of our own.


佩加蒙博物馆的伊斯兰手稿插图,2020. Islamic manuscript, Pergamon Museum, 2020.

The mysterious Encyclopedia of Al-Qazwini, on display in the Pergamon Museum, documents the rich and varied insights of the world collected by the scholar Al-Qazwini between 1260 and 1280.


柏林新博物馆的柱子,2020, pillars of the Neues Museum, Berlin, 2020.

This is a pillar of Neues Museum Berlin, which embodies all the historical details. The whole structure is imbued with details of stories. [The damage is from gunfire during the final days of the second world war in Europe as Russian troops took over the city, descending on Hitler’s bunker.]

Carsten Nicolai 的《Moire Index》, p124,2019

Carsten Nicolai 的《Moire Index》, p124,2019

Before the pandemic, when I was in the library of UDK [Universität der Kunst], I came across the book “Moire Index” edited by Carsten Nicolai, who is a musician and visual artist. The book is a visual lexicon of patterns and grid systems. Although such interference patterns are mostly considered to be unwanted side effects, they are actually extremely interesting from an aesthetic perspective. This idea shares the same starting point of my work in recent years.

But we are different. While Carsten Nicolai intends to  program music in order to study visual aesthetics, my approach is quite the opposite: to study visually psychological suggestion through a mathematical model, such as network and code. For example, the feeling music brings about to me is a kind of warm  and sensual experience, while its abstraction can be the object of logic reasoning. My question is, whether this sensual experience can, through mathematical modeling,  be applied to backward simulation and inquisition. And how much of this pure reasoning disciplined by algorithm can dialogue with the crude, obscure, even sordid portions in my paintings.

《DAS ENDE DES 20. JAHRHUNDERTS》,1982-1983,约瑟夫·博伊斯,Marx 收藏与国家美术馆藏品展,2020

《DAS ENDE DES 20. JAHRHUNDERTS》,1982-1983,约瑟夫·博伊斯,Marx 收藏与国家美术馆藏品展,2020. “The End of the 20th Century”, 1982-1983, Joseph Beuys, Marx Collection, Nationalgalerie exhibition, 2020.

In February, the serious state of the epidemic made me extremely gloomy. In this mood, I visited the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, and ran into a very therapeutic exhibition, ‘Time for Fragments Works from the Marx Collection and the Collection of the Nationalgalerie”’, in which the religious redemption of art was enlarged by the disaster. I believe Beuys’s work would not have left me in tears before the pandemic. This exhibition lasted until September, 2020. [Joseph Beuys, 1921-1986; Erich Marx , 1921-2020]

Time Flow

I was stunned by the so many ways timber is processed and classified in Berlin’s market, and the way a product is subdivided. Nearly every piece of wood is finely treated. Here in Berlin the degree of precision in craftsmanship is far different from the rough and thriftless way of working in China.

柏林的木材连锁市场Holz possling里面的切割服务区 2019

柏林的木材连锁市场Holz possling里面的切割服务区 2019. Cutting service area in Holz Possling, Berlin’s timber market chain.

Yuan Yuan is, without hesitation, throwing himself into his new career. The real reason he moved away from China was he could not put up with the time view most people have there. But I’ve got lost in the two very different time streams…

柏林的春天, 2020

柏林的春天, 2020. Spring in Berlin, 2020.

Before the school closed in March, our daughter had already been going to the kindergarten for 6 months. The first book I brought back home from the kindergarten was a book of botanical illustrations. We studied these new vocabularies with a dictionary. During the lockdown, we were delighted to find these “new friends” sprouting in our neighbor’s garden. In my memory in Hangzhou, my botanical knowledge was just limited to Cantonese Michelia alba on the school campus in Spring and lotus in the West Lake in Summer. It was beyond my expectation that the first lesson we had here was about more than a hundred plants and their attributes. In Hangzhou’s Summer, the streets are well decorated with all kinds of flowers, they either pop up  or disappear overnight. They are usually piled up on the landscape zones by sanitation men, but we have no time to figure out their kinds.

In China, people are obsessed with arriving at the future right away. It is just for the sake of this “right away” that all details can be put away, all rules can be altered, principles can be ignored, as long as one can stand side by side with the future in the next second. So as we entered this new time sphere, the changed has left us unprepared, especially with a day of suspension every seven days [Sunday]: we have come back to the present from the future.

2017年4月袁远摄于柏林Mauer 公园,2017

2017年4月袁远摄于柏林Mauer 公园. April 2017, Mauerpark in Berlin (photo Yuan Yuan)

In fact, we are enjoying ourselves shuttling back and forth between these two cultural camps, whether or not there has been such a disaster as the ‘oxidizer’. Working together with the ‘oxidizer’, there are endless layers and perspectives of virtual life and political stance, and a sense of dizziness seems to be inevitable. At the moment one stands on the cusp of the surge. The adaptability of humankind may be worth our attention, just like the endless joy one gets from observing the reactions of some individuals in this ever-changing world.

A note on moons

An important festival for Chinese people is thee “mid-autumn festival” or “moon festival” and it is happening this week. “Moon” in China is a meaningful symbol. When people miss their families and their loved ones, or when they wish each other good things, they use the term “Moon”. When people are homesick and are nostalgic, they use this term too. But for us, there are “two moons”—two realities. We are Missing one and watching another one at the same time, even if they are reflecting the same heat from the sun.