Magazine article Artforum International

Wu Tsang: 356 S. Mission Road

Magazine article Artforum International

Wu Tsang: 356 S. Mission Road

Article excerpt

Wu Tsang

356 S. MISSION ROAD

The revision of historical narratives--rooted in feminist and civil rights movements and inflected by subsequent discourses on identity, hybridity, and intersectionality--is a vital, if perhaps over-rehearsed, artistic strategy. For Wu Tsang's immersive installation "The Luscious Land of God Is Sinking," the story reimagined was that of Qiu Jin, a turn-of-the-century Chinese feminist and revolutionary martyr, and that of her friend and biographer, the calligrapher Wu Zhiying. There is no overt historical record of a romantic relationship between the two, but this exhibition, based around historical excavations of the duo, made explicit gestures to that effect in the presentation of a sculptural and photographic archive collected and created by the artist. Encased in museological vitrines built into a dark, monumental fifty-foot hallway was a constellation of objects ranging from a calligraphic copy of the Surangama Sutra made by Wu Zhiying to lithographs recalling stone rubbings that displayed epithets such as rage aka fuckin angry. The corridor led to a large room containing a projected video that served as the heart of the subjective archive.

The cumulative effect was that of a historiographic exquisite corpse that used the women's biographies as springboards in its celebration of the generative possibilities of loose translation. Bringing this corpse alive was the goal of the exhibition, which was demonstrated most forcefully in Duilian, 2016, a luxuriant twenty-six-minute video seemingly set in the present, although that assumption was complicated by swank and textural period costumes and props including a colonial-style junk that Tsang chartered around Hong Kong's South Bay and Aberdeen harbors, where much of the video's action took place. Intimate scenes of the protagonists' first encounter, which involved flirtatious hair brushing and existential ruminations between Zhiying and Jin (played respectively by Tsang and boychild, her frequent collaborator) were intercut with footage of women masterfully performing Duilian Wushu, a style of martial arts that blends dancelike choreography and virtuosic swordsmanship. The performers' routines were executed on the junk's deck, as well as on a soundstage decorated with a monumental silk banner displaying the crest of the Mutual Love Society (a group of friends and colleagues with whom Tsang collaborates, so named by her), which was also emblazoned on the performers' flowing silk uniforms. …

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