Richard Thomas
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'JI NIAN' ::: "Matchmaking at Souzhou Creek" Shanghai Bienale Satellite Project ::: Shanghai, China, September 2004

Ji' nian' was a collaborative installation/ performance project undertaken with Shanghai artist Su Bing as part of the innovative ‘Matchmaking at Suzhou Creek” project organised by the pioneering Shianghai art gallery Eastlink Gallery. The project took place to coincide with the 2004 Shanghai Bienale at the sprawling Moganshanlu artists compound. Ji’nian means Memorial. The flowers used in this project is the chrysantimum. In China the chrysanthimum is connected to the eternal rhythms of life and death and is used at funerals. The process of conception, installation, and performance was simple, obvious and enriching. The motivation for this work emerged after conversations revealed that both artists had used flowers in previous projects. Developed from his previous performance work with chrysanthemums, Su Bing initiated a series of bodily interventions in the installation. The Suzhou creek and environs is a fragile, fluctuating ecology where the accelerated transformation of China’s contemporary urban space can be experienced first hand. A melange of the old, the hyper-new, the destroyed and the reborn. The chaos of this constantly re-built ‘built environment’ seems strangely natural, organic. The gleaming and shiny and the decaying and tarnished sit side by side. It is the hybridised global space par excellence: artist’s garden, demolition site, decayed factory space, modern residential towers, and murky riverland all co-habitate in a seamless bewildering continuum. Amidst the 'harmonious contradictions' of the frenetic pace of development, Shanghai artist Su Bing has his studio. Holes punched through the wall serve as makeshift windows onto the vast demolition/redevelopment site (see left). On top of his studio is a crumbling water tower, underneath which a recessed concrete platform became the perfect platform for the collaboration: a temporary memorial to this place, this moment, realised with 3500 chrysanthimums and lots of generosity and assistance from local artists and assistants.


© Richard Thomas 2008