Living as though they are Chinese migrant workers, the artist collective Double Fly Art Center present their new show at de Sarthe Gallery, Beijing.
Staging their commentary on the lives of Chinese migrant workers, the nine artists explore globalisation and migration through performance art, prints and sculptural works.
Do not fear the heat; let go of everything;
dust returns to earth; water blends with milk; be fat but not greasy.
So runs the slogan that the Double Fly Art Center has put together for their latest exhibition, entitled “The Bro Generation” at de Sarthe Gallery, Beijing. Running through 10 September 2017, the exhibition delves into new work made by the nine members of the artist collective, all of whom graduated from the Department of New Media Art in the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou.
Comprised of artists Cui Shaohan, Li Ming, Li Fuchun, Lin Ke, Sun Huiyuan, Huang Liya, Wang Liang, Yang Junling and Zhang Lehua, the group made their name through their playful, satirical, and unexpected interventions. Past projects by the group include holding an egg-crushing tournament at the Today Art Museum in 2012, where visitors were invited to crack open raw eggs. Most recently, their absurdist performance 106 Deaths‘was staged at Shanghai Chi K11 Art Museum. Taking their cue from the story of the 108-man outlaw army from the Water Margin, a classical Chinese novel, the nine members stage a largely improvised massacre that leave them lying in a pile, covered in strawberry blood. Although each of the members maintain separate practices, ranging from traditional Chinese ink techniques to animation and even dance, the artists have maintained a collective identity over the years since their inception in 2008. Spread out over various cities in China, such as Hangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, the artists of Double Fly Art Center nevertheless exhibit regularly as a group, with 10 solo exhibitions to date.
Entitling their exhibition “The Bro Generation”, the group comment on the migratory lives that members of their generation often face. Born after the 1980s, the nine members (all of whom, incidentally, are male) are the only children of their families, a result created by China’s one-child policy. With migration, mobility and flexibility at the core of their lives, the “millennial generation” of China often find themselves in the flux of changing living situations. Having to adapt to a multitude of different circumstances necessitates meeting new people, and they form new clusters of networks and associations as they move from place to place. New “brothers” are often quickly adopted and found, on the basis of friendship and affinity rather than on blood ties.
Sprawled out on down-white bed sheets for all visitors to see, the opening performance of “The Bro Generation” features the members of the collective sleeping on beds in the main atrium of the gallery. Resembling the cramped interiors of dormitory rooms that Chinese migrant workers stay in, the sleeping quarters feature three-tier wooden bunk beds, surrounded by portable televisions, strewn slippers and shoes, and suitcases. Drawing a parallel between themselves and Chinese migrant workers, the members of Double Fly describe themselves as having the same “Bohemian complexities: psychologically migratory, sadistic, masochistic, and simultaneously indifferent”. Even more unnerving is the fact that the members have set up cameras broadcasting their every toss and turn in bed to the audience, who watch them through a flat-screen television at the base of their beds.
Accompanying their performance is a wide range of installation, sculptural and print work. One of the series featured in this exhibition is also entitled The Bro Generation. Made up of iron, steel, paper and clay, this series comprises four large scale installations. The Bro Generation No.1 appears to draw on a certain mythological reference, placing the silhouettes of animals on a bench alongside one another. The Bro Generation No. 2 features the figure of a heavy mallet hung askew by a metal frame. Bones are the main motif of The Bro Generation No. 3, adding a whimsical, yet macabre touch. Installed in the main atrium of de Sarthe Gallery, the heaviness of these sculptural works are accompanied by accents of bright, cheeky pink from Pink Seat, a set of three works made out of plastic nets, plasters and hemp thread.
Another outstanding series is Patina Bro, comprising nine bronze sculptures depicting the teeth, abdomen, legs and a slew of other body parts. A departure from the airy, light central atrium, Patina Bro is installed in a darker room, the various sculptures arranged in descending levels on the wall. An interesting depiction of a segmented human body, the artists have even included a pair of legs sitting cross-legged on the ground, in a sculpture entitled Crossing Legs.
In another twist to their exhibition, a shocking neon pink room also houses the 2017 installation Spiritual Sculpture. As though they were furniture in a warped living room, Spiritual Sculpture features a ragtag ensemble of sculptures strategically placed, backlit by a LED wall with plastic film.
Cheeky, fun and at times introspective, Double Fly Art Center’s newest exhibition at de Sarthe Gallery cycles through different modes, binding together the various artistic practices of their members. Although the nine members call the exhibition a way for them to “assemble and reunite for some non-existent meaning”, Double Fly Art Center’s “The Bro Generation” is more than just a show of camaraderie, it is also an exploration of absurd futility.
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