Han Bing, Beijing - China



Love in the Age of Big Construction III (2006)

"Love in the Age of Big Construction III," a multimedia performance installation by Han Bing, interrogating the human costs of China's frantic rush toward urban "modernity." Male migrant workers, in their hardhats and work clothes, curl in sleep around heaps of bricks and lumps of fluffy cotton. Everyone seems to be dreaming the same halcyon dreams; dreams of home, material comforts, a space of one's own, a glorious future, and a mighty, wealthy nation. Dreams that are also mostly out of reach, as the gap between rich and poor expands with a vengeance. A swarm of iridescent bubbles undulate as they ride the currents of the air, only to shimmer and burst. The artist, who can best be described as pan-gendered (not sexless and androgynous, but hyper-transsexy in a way that exudes a heady mix of gender trouble) "sleeps with," strokes, kisses and caresses the massive steel clawed arm of a backhoe - a machine of modern construction and demolition - on a cotton padded bed in a frame of concrete and steel girders that create the semblance of the bare frame of a house. In the background, flicker ghostly images of brutal demolition, the frail hopes of construction, the élan of laboring people, and the uneuphemized realities of life in a zone of ongoing destruction and construction. In a move that repudiates the logic of "fight fire with fire," or as it's said in Chinese, "use poison to fight poison," the artist embraces a strategy reminiscent of pacifist civil disobedience, employing a dialectic of antinomies to create a space for overcoming. The softness of the bed of cotton is used to overcome the hardness of the machine, weightless clouds to hold up tons of steel, sensuality to overcome the numbed philistine quality of the contemporary age, Eros to tame the death drive, seduction to overcome violation, feminine generativity to overcome masculine destructivity, in a perhaps Sisyphean attempt to ameliorate the impersonal violence of China's modernization.

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last changed: 26. 03. 2021