25 January 2011

Chen Wenling: The Suspense

Chen Wenling
The Suspense
Today Art Museum, Beijing

Shark eating hippo eating crocodile eating man. Or is it the other way around?

A fantastic way to fill this large hall at Today Art Museum in Beijing.

This seems like an obvious story of nature defeating man. The hunter is eaten by a crocodile, which is eaten by a hippopotamus, which is eaten by a shark. The man has got the wild animals hooked, but are then attacked by them himself. The gigantic installation is breathtaking. The fear, the rage and the pain is immense. The viewers become small compared to the large creatures. The humans are dominated by the wild.

But this is also a comic setup, like a dog biting its own tail. The figures are like animal toys in gigantic sizes and turned bad.

This is no game or joke, this is blood and violence. According to a polaroid picture and notes on the wall, the installation is inspired on a real incident 15 year ago, when the artist and his girlfriend was stabbed by robbers. The hunter/victim of the installation is a self portrait, attacked by vicious creatures.

But, wait a minute! The exhibition continues into the next room, where the shark, hippo and crocodile are all dead. The man is missing, but blood tracks are leading away from the scene. Man defeated nature. The artist defeated the attackers. In real life one of the robbers was executed, one got a long prison sentence, and one is in hiding.

What at first seems like a comment on man versus nature or the extinction of wild animals, is furthermore a personal catharsis of the artist, gaining control over traumatic memories. It could be a story about bloody revenge. But it is also a story about forgiveness. Connected to the exhibition is the establishing of the Suspense Foundation, offering education and art lessons to poor children in the village where the robbers came from.

Chen Wenling - The Suspense
Chen Wenling - The Suspense
Chen Wenling - The Suspense