Mar 10, 2018 -
May 27, 2018
OCAT Xi'an | Beichitou 1st Road, Yanta District, Xi'an, Shannxi
Chen Zhe’s extended research project Towards Evening: Six Chapters, 2012-on-going, begins with human instinct and psychological sensibility. It attempts to unravel non-ordinary states of consciousness to understand what drives human psychology, in particular that associated with uneasiness of the unknown evoked by dusk. Chen Zhe describes Towards Evening: Six Chapters as ‘a journey in search of the nebulous space between day and night’, a means of ‘experimenting with visual representations and language that are evocative of the intricate and transient experiences relating to dusk.’ The project is divided into six independent chapters with the aim of revealing through varied filters what we understand as evening. The individual chapter titles are explanatory and evocative: “The Uneven Time”, “Nightfall Disquiet”, “The Red Cocoon”, “Between Identities”, “Two Kinds of Light”, and “Erebus”. From various points of entry, each explores one of the ways in which dusk penetrates, consumes even, the human psyche.
An interest in the human mind has, from the first, underscored Chen Zhe’s thematic investigations in art. This began with the psychology of self-abuse in a series titled The Bearable (2007-10), and in portraits of states of youth compiled for Bees (2010-12). Both series of photographs consciously adopted and manipulated the function of documentation in order to challenge the viewer’s grasp of what they see. The Bearable is at times hard to view for the proximity to harm is close, intimate, and profoundly disturbing, but it also thrives on the air of ambiguity aroused by the juxtaposition of harm, fear, abuse and beauty. Similarly, ambiguity is perhaps the singular unifying quality of the myriad components of Towards Evening: Six Chapters which Chen Zhe presents this spring in Xi’an. She has described The Bearable as a means of spiritual cleansing, of dealing – in a very direct way – with a disturbed mental state. This latest, and on-going project, Towards Evening: Six Chapters, is also intended to function as a mechanism for providing relief in the form of a methodical investigation of a phenomenon such that might unravel its mysteries and thereby ease the soul.
This being art, Chen Zhe’s work only intensifies the awe. Using the phenomenon of dusk as the theme on which to hang her quest to reveal what is felt but not visible, and to speak about things which go beyond rational language, Towards Evening comprises installations woven together from photographic materials including reproductions of archival images, documents, texts, and physical objects of her own construction together with (future) moving image sequences and sound elements. The composite creates a compelling juxtaposition of experiences that can be calmly perused, read and reconsidered.