‘dire straits’ by wang mai

chinese artist wang mai has conceived ‘dire straits’ – an installation exploring the geopolitical notions of the disappearing past and uncertain future. mai has created an absurdist landscape of part waterway and part forest – laden with rusty pies, broken machines and crooked tree trunks – all cohesively representing the metaphor of a strait.

the piece, filling the nave of the ullens center for contemporary art (UCCA), is informed by mai’s deep interest in geopolitics – where the materials are distinctly dystopian. the walls are coated in blue foil wrappers from zhongnanhai cigarette cartons (a beijing brand named after the area were the central leadership reside); and the floors blanketed in planks of corrugated blue metal sourced directly from the roof of the artist’s own studio. accents of big-name logos pepper the the main piece, with a large-scale cradle fabricated from birch bark and a precarious tent covered in cured fish skin form a home for the specially named ‘oil monsters’.

through juxtaposing ancient and modern elements, the lasting and the fleeting, mai tackles a major point of contention: oil. the ‘strait’ is intertwined with commentary on corporate branding and national interests, a race toward the future that disregards disappearing cultures and environmental atrophy. the artwork requests the audience to step into a world offering a reflection on china’s tense position in a rapidly degenerating planet.

the installation is on show at UCCA till 30th of august, 2012.

wang mai: dire straits the floors blanketed in planks of corrugated blue metal sourced directly from the roof of the artist’s own studio

wang mai: dire straits through juxtaposing ancient and modern elements, the lasting and the fleeting, mai tackles a major point of contention: oil

wang mai: dire straits the artwork requests the audience to step into a world offering a reflection on china’s tense position in a rapidly degenerating planet

wang mai: dire straits the piece is informed by the artist’s deep interest in geopolitics

wang mai: dire straits the piece is accented with big-name logos

wang mai: dire straits detail image of the birches

wang mai: dire straits detail image