Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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新山海经 (New Book of Mountains and Seas 3)
  • Qiu Anxiong
    born 1972
    born: Chengdu, China
  • 新山海经 (New Book of Mountains and Seas 3), 2016
  • Where object was made: Shanghai, China
  • single-channel HD black-and-white video with sound, 29 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Courtesy of the artist
  • Not on display
  • EL2016.028
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Temporal Turn: Art and Speculation in Contemporary Asia", 11-Nov-2016
The New Book of Mountains and Seas (新山海经, Xin Shanhai Jing) trilogy builds on an ancient masterwork of Chinese geography known as the Classic of Mountains and Seas (山海经, Shanhai Jing), a text that dates to the second century and describes distant, exotic realms inhabited by strange creatures and variant forms of humanity. For his contemporary version, Qiu Anxiong drew from source material about recent scientific, political, and cultural events to imagine a universe of bizarre entities that inhabit a world teetering on the edge of self-annihilation.

To create this three-part animation, Qiu used software to stitch together frame-by-frame photography documenting the painted accumulation of a monochromatic composition on a single canvas, effectively breathing life into still painting. By limiting his palate to black and white, Qiu purposely evokes the ink-and-brush technique from historic China, thus effecting an ancient aesthetic through modern technology. Through this monumental work, Qiu charts connections between contemporary life and historical memory, and purposely blurs distinctions between fictional and virtual realities.
The first chapter begins in an idealized bucolic past that gradually gives way to an industrialized world populated by an array of bio-mechanical monsters and gripped by pollution and war. Chapter two transports the viewer from microscopic realms of cells and genetic cloning to cosmic depictions of outer space. The third and final chapter, which makes its international debut in Temporal Turn, questions the illusive nature of reality as it follows an unnamed protagonist who slips between computer-generated virtual worlds and physical, material existence.