Magazine article Artforum International

Yang Jian: TAIKANG SPACE

Magazine article Artforum International

Yang Jian: TAIKANG SPACE

Article excerpt

Near the entrance of Yang Jian's solo exhibition "Constructing Ruins," visitors encountered a short text typewritten on a small piece of paper attached to a length of rebar. The elliptical words tell the story of a crew of workers who run into trouble constructing a bridge. The foreman, disguised as a beggar, asks nearby villagers for two sets of children's clothes. The workers nail the clothes to a post and, suddenly, they are able to complete the bridge successfully. Soon, however, the children to whom the clothes belonged die.

This tale was among half a dozen stories printed on as many pieces of paper dangling here and there amid this show on the second floor of Taikang Space. All of these texts--collected by Yang from the internet--address the practice of dashengzhuang, or the ritual of human sacrifice for important construction projects. Dashengzhuang belongs to an era long gone, but it never ceases to grip the popular imagination, as evidenced by the anecdotes presented here.

At the opposite end of the space, a vintage television set looped a sequence from a Chinese animated film from the 1960s, in which the protagonist runs up a seemingly never-ending staircase inside a thousand-floor high-rise with no elevator. An inefficient modernist skyscraper and a premodern belief that human flesh and soul give the structure strength--which is more absurd? Inspired by the bizarre building from the animation and by his long-term research on ruins, Yang Jian has made videos, sketches, and 3-D printed miniature models depicting all kinds of impossible or comically dysfunctional architecture, from a cottage shaped like a seesaw to a room consisting only of ceilings. …

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