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Galerie Urs Meile opens third solo exhibition of Chinese artist Cheng Ran's work
Cheng Ran, Secret Notes to Nan Goldin, 2013. Single channel HD video, color/ sound, 16:9 14'13'' edition of 6 + 1 AP. The artist and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

LUCERNE.- Galerie Urs Meile announces the opening of Cheng Ran: Selected Films, the third solo exhibition of Chinese artist Cheng Ran (b. 1981), at the gallery in Lucerne. The exhibition focuses on his video works, and central among them is a film that is almost impossible to watch in its entirety: the epic In Course of the Miraculous (2015, wide-screen HD film, 5.1 surround sound, 468’, edition of 3 + 1 AP). To ensure the best screening effect, the gallery space has been transformed into a tentative cinema where viewers can sit and enjoy the film with drinks and snacks. The film tells three real-life stories about people becoming mysteriously lost: English mountain climber George Mallory, who went missing in his first attempt to reach the top of Mount Everest in 1924, Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader, who vanished during his 1975 journey across the Atlantic, and the crew of the Chinese fishing trawler Lu Rong Yu no. 2682 that, after six months on the ocean, was reduced to one-third of its original numbers. The artist’s endeavor is to uncover the human nature in the protagonists’ fatalistic pursuit of the miraculous as well as in their confrontation with the ultimate proposition of death.

Cheng Ran works in media that are products of complex and globalized conditions while simultaneously traversing a global art system. His video works are full of references that both create deeply moving reflections and as well credit his predecessors. Watching Cheng Ran’s video works is like watching a magician perform tricks that utilize his entire toolbox. He offers amusements that are magically realized through a signature practice of intersecting images with sound. He oftentimes appropriates visual and aural components from classics to create an entirely new video. This approach enables him to push the spirit of the past in what seems like a strategy of disengagement all while de-familiarizing familiar scenes to the point that they become strange and dream-like. He is always lashing out in full force with electric images and loads of sounds channeled through music, voice, and random noise. In the exhibition, we will display a selection of his representative video works that spans a time period from 2010 to 2016 and perfectly underlines his artistic methodology.

In his 2012 work, Angels for the Millennium (number 6) (2012, single channel video with sound, 7’44’’, edition of 6 + 1 AP), Cheng Ran responds to Bill Viola’s 2001 Five Angels for the Millennium, in which angels rise up out of water towards heaven. He reverses the process as his angel becomes submerged in water. The question then arises whether we want our happy ending to be spiritual or a return to reality. The Anonymity, or Imitation and Imagining of Man Ray’s “Tears (1930-1932)” (2010, single channel video with sound, 11’33’’, edition of 6 + 1 AP) begins with a long shot of a scantily clad boy standing statue-like on a rock set to classical music. It reaches an ending with a close-up of the boy’s face dotted with fake tears reminiscent of the melancholy teardrops in Man Ray’s famous 1930 photograph. Secret Notes to Nan Goldin (2013, single channel HD video, color/sound, 16:9, 14’33, edition of 6 + 1 AP) depicts a story told in eight secretly hidden notes that Cheng Ran left in his friend’s home before depart¬ing in order to engage the next guest of the house, American photographer Nan Goldin, in conversation. In Chewing Gum Paper (2011, single channel video, color/sound, 3’48, edition of 6 + 1 AP), we see scattered crumpled silver balls of chewing gum wrapper atop a bass drum surface. They jump erratically with the vibrations of the sound waves coming from recorded fragments of Martin Luther King’s famous “ I Have A Dream” speech. While the particular consolidation of sound and image seems to hold little meaning, the vibrating chewing gum wrappers transfer the spiritual presence of the iconic phrase into substance. Everything Has Its Time (2011, single channel HD video, color/sound, 16:9, 6’52’’, edition of 6 + 1 AP) is the artist`s reminiscence of the memory of a gloomy Paris Metro compartment as he uses a frag-mented sound clip on his mobile phone that contains music from a nearby busking musician mixed together with the noise of the carriage. The Eclipse (2011, single channel HD video, color/sound, 16:9, 3’48’’, edition of 6 + 1 AP) showcases the hypnotizing light effects caused by vibrating cymbals during a three-minute drum performance.

Cheng Ran purposefully spends a significant portion of his time abroad each year. For him, life abroad is an adventure that deprives him of his previous experiences and comforts and gives him fresh insights and inspiration for his artistic practices. In 2016, Cheng Ran participated in a residency program at the New Museum in New York, and it was followed by the artist’s first solo museum show, Diary of a Madman, in the United States. An essential video from that New Museum show, The Homing Pigeon (2016, single channel HD video, color/sound, 16:9, 5’53’’, edition of 6 + 1 AP), is being displayed in the video selection at the exhibition. The work attempts to capture the spirit of New York City through the eyes of a first time visitor. It takes a strange perspective of homing pigeons resting and moving in front of a backdrop of Time Square’s iconic billboards. All the while, the artist reads aloud an excerpt from Allen Ginsberg’s iconic poem, “Howl”.

Cheng Ran was born in 1981 in Inner Mongolia, China, and currently lives and works in Hangzhou, China. His work has been featured in numerous biennials and group exhibitions, including The World Precedes the Eye, Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, Singapore (2016); Unlimited, Art Basel, Basel (2016); SALTWATER: a Theory of Thought Forms, the 14th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2015); When I Give, I Give Myself, the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (2015); Inside China – L’Intérieur du Géant, chi K11 art museum, Shanghai (2015), K11 Art Foundation Pop-Up Space, Hong Kong (2015) and Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2014); Cinematheque: Music is On, Band is Gone, chi K11 art museum, Shanghai (2015); Degeneration, Australia China Art Foundation (ACAF), Sydney (2014) and OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT), Shanghai (2013); and ON|OFF: China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013). Cheng Ran’s most recent solo exhibitions include Diary of a Madman at the New Museum, New York (2016) and In Course of the Miraculous at the K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong (2016), and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne, Beijing (2015). His other solo shows have been presented at: Qiao Space, Shanghai (2016), YUAN Space, Beijing (2015), and Armada, Milan (2014). Cheng Ran was nominated for the first edition of the OCAT & Pierre Huber Art Prize in 2014 and the Absolut Art Award in 2013, and was named the “Best Video Artist” by the art magazine Radian in 2011.

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