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A Secret Movement

Author: Fang Zhiling 2010-02-21

In 2008, Liu Weijian depicted some of the most common scenes by resorting to a kind of extremely pristine and realistic art language. What he depicted at that time included: a pile of minerals, some industrial components, a substation in some remote little village, a small wharf, a shabby petroleum exchange, some rusty door, a public payphone on the wall, several LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) bottles on the ground, and cow dung scattered on the road, etc. For the work teeming with strong rustic characteristics, Liu gave it a somewhat industrialized title: Molecular theory.

By juxtaposing minerals with their derivatives, works such as Minerals, Metal components, and Residual soil imbued the inorganic, which was supposed to be lifeless and insensible, with a kind of sentimental power. In his work, minerals appeared to be lambs waiting to be slaughtered, soil left on the ground seemed like ashes burned to the end, and newly-forged metal components, too, looked quite daunting. The cold sunshine, thick shadow, smudgy ground, and chaotic state all seemed to be indications of future destiny.

The petroleum contained in a used plastic kettle in a shabby exchange; the roughly-made iron lock hung on the rusty door; the once-gorgeous-now-dilapidated lamp standing at the gate of the culture center where walls were already moldy, and roof and iron-barred door were black; and the LPG bottles lying on the smudgy ground... all of these depressive and broken scenes and coarse, rusty and smudgy industrial products constituted the foundation of Liu Weijian's world. The somewhat contemporary title may mislead people to think his world featured pompous urban civilization and modern industry. However, as a matter of fact, Molecular theory featured life in the country where nature and tradition were barbarically invaded by modern civilization. It cast light on the primitive and coarse aspects of industrialization.

Cow dung on the road conveyed "my" modernistic sentiment in a more euphemistic way. The collision between road and cow dung represented the collision between industrial civilization and agricultural civilization. Here, filth such as cow dung was used as a symbol of agricultural civilization. The gloomy and yet sensitive light in the picture and the vulgar appearance of cow dung revealed "my" deep concern towards the decline of the natural and warm agricultural society.

Surrounded by a kind of melancholic atmosphere, the pristine scene, objective shots and mechanical paintings were the exact representation of the real world in "my" eye. The pristine state and the seeming objectivity as well as the use of the partial color effect in photos displayed shocking facts of the coarseness and deterioration of the world to the maximum and implied the subtleties of "my" melancholy and deep concerns.

In 2009, Liu Weijian presented a new series of works named Nostalgia. Different from Molecular theory, which laid an emphasis on a high sense of social responsibility and modernistic melancholy, Nostalgia highlighted "my" hometown complex. The shift from hometown complex to nostalgia was quite intriguing and thought-provoking. In the context of modernism featuring industrialization, for wanderers who left the villages where they grew up and chose to live in metropolises totally strange to them, hometown was not only some cozy memory but also a kind of lingering inner anguish due to the irreversible invasion of urbanization. Under such circumstances, the grand perspective and deep concern for the society in Molecular theory were transformed into a more powerful emotional investment: nostalgia.

Vanished factories, Brick kiln, and Personal complex depicted some abandoned country factories built during the heyday of country development. Warehouse of the Station and The Dock featured some desolate places which used to play an important role in social activities. The SARS hospital focused on the heritage from a special social event. All these places were ruthlessly eliminated by the dramatic development of the society and therefore, to some extend, functioned as an epitome of the changing country world.

Cow Leg and Cotton Wool chose to depict life in the country from some of the most common scenes. But excessively depressive tones deprived the works of the warmness and vitality of life there. Scavengers and Peculiar Implication depicted beautiful rural scenery on the surface. Nevertheless, in "my" sad eyes, the beautiful rural scenery could also appear to be an alarming reality and an ominous sign. Ideal in the garden and The concept of sectarianism looked back upon the social ideology once prevailing "hometown" and the heyday that had passed away.

Nostalgia was the result of an emotional crash between "me" and "hometown". Compared with Molecular theory, which had a more rigorous internal structure, Nostalgia appeared to be more casual. It was more like a casual record "I" made of the once familiar but now strange and somewhat sentimental scenes in "my" hometown. Teeming with a kind of sentimental emotion, Nostalgia no longer emphasized reality or subtlety. A visual effect similar to poor-quality photos was intentionally created. With the scenery on the background keeping receding, two vague images slowly turned up: one was a vivid and warm image of the hometown, showcasing the hilarity of those country factories, the glory of state-owned companies, and the enthusiasm of life in the country and the purity of people's faith in simple things. The other was the image of the metropolis "I" now lived in, featuring the achievements gained by modern industrialization. The sharp contrast between the two images sheds light on the depressing and worrying status quo of the country world.

A funny machine refitted from an old tractor with two pumps, four wheels, and a long tube was shown in the gloomy light. The machine was not drawn meticulously and thick strokes were used from time to time. However, it precisely manifested the simplicity and reliability of such a machine. Dim light, heavy shadow, and faint halo made the work both realistic and imaginary at the same time. Entitled On the street, the work revealed a new theme of Liu Weijian's creation—"Antenna".

The antenna was a new achievement of Liu's journey. Compared with the bleak scenes shown in Nostalgia, Antenna was immersed in a kind of ambiguous atmosphere. During the spiritual dialogue with the depressing reality of the country, the inner feelings of "mine" turned to be more complicated, subtle, and unspeakable.

From the statue of Wang Zhaojun, one of the Four Beauties in ancient China, "I" perceived the desire for exile that prevailed in the country world. From the old street lamps, "I" saw the imagination, admiration and flattery of one world to another luxurious world. From the heritage of the previous era and the sculpture representing the faith of the current era, a sense of anachronism was felt. A kind of ridiculous passion was hidden in the self-made missile models. "I" saw the craving for recruitment from the discarded large coil and huge wooden boxes wrapped in plastic cloth. To "me", though all of these were existing reality, they also contradicted the reality "I" lived in. How could "I" deal with it? It's hard to say. Everything was tangled together.

Antenna, apparently, embodied a further exploration "I" made towards the spiritual state of the county world. However, Liu Weijian's Antenna was fundamentally a lyric piece. The increasing ambiguous attitudes didn't lead to the counteraction of passion. On the contrary, with the deepening of reason, the increasingly elusive emotions of "mine" gave rise to a kind of deeper emotional experience.

From Molecular Theory to Nostalgia, and then to Antenna, what Liu Weijian explored was more than the country world. During his spiritual dialogue with the increasingly declined country world, he also further explored himself. In his opinion, these everyday changes would not be recorded into history, since "History is just a result of public culture and attention. The stories of oneself are not called history. They are the past. The past is a secret movement and will disappear in confidence. Even if it is revealed to the public, it will still become a secret". In this sense, his work could be paraphrased as the representation of the secret movement which was launched by "me", who was "neither important nor indispensable to the society", and would be doomed to vanish. Even if such a movement was revealed to the public, it would still remain a secret.

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