State Legacy review

Thursday 2 April 2009 saw the opening of State Legacy, Cornerhouse’s new Chinese contemporary art exhibition, featuring the work of Wang Guangyi, Wang Jianwei, Sui Jianguo, Zeng Li and Lu Hao.

The exhibition focuses on China’s recent Industrial and Cultural Revolution, and some of the positive and negative aspects of it.

Firecrackers launched the exhibition in All Saints Park with a bang (or lots of very loud bangs, smoke and some persistent flames). It was refreshing to see an exhibition begin a bit differently, tying in well with the traditional aspect of China’s history. Also the beautiful weather that day made the experience really pleasant.

Two parts of the exhibition were being shown in The Holden Gallery; Wang Guangyi’s installation, East Wind – Golden Dragon Car, and Lu Hao’s Replicated Memory. I thought the Golden Dragon Car was visually stunning and had a remarkable story behind it – it is a replica of the first car ever produced in China, presented to Chairman Mao as a gift, and it reminded me of the stuck-in-time vintage cars found in Havana.

Replicated Memory, a large map of Beijing with transparent models of Chinese buildings suspended above in the places they were demolished as part of the industrialization of China, was bleak and eerie, yet the primary colours of the light-box map give the piece a kind of stark liveliness.

Zeng Li’s collection of photographs also managed to be bleak yet beautiful, each image full of detail. I found it interesting how the mountains were easily confused with piles of rubble and dirt on the construction sites.

Wang Jianwei’s The Grandstand Tiananmen, was a virtual installation, which I found interesting, but didn’t really catch my attention as much as some of the other pieces.

I enjoyed viewing Raising Speed by Sui Jianguo, because of its unusual format of inter-linked projections lining the room. It was kind of like a selection of photographs in which you could see even more than that split second when the photograph is taken.

I have very little knowledge about China’s history, and though the exhibition certainly expanded the knowledge I had about China’s industrialisation and the different views people hold on it, I felt that the exhibition may have been more appealing to someone with more extensive knowledge on the subject. Nevertheless, I found the exhibition as a whole to be interesting, informative and moving.

Review by LiveWire Critic Alice Toomer-McAlpine (April ’09)

State Legacy is on at Cornerhouse until Sun 24 May 2009 and Holden Gallery until Fri 8 May 2009