Playing With Space - Wang Wei's Installations
Carol Lu

Wang Wei's new work Trap is massive in scale and compositionally complex. Menacing, heavy and intense, it inspires awe and discomfort simultaneously. With an acute sensitivity towards space and architecture, Wang Wei has created a series of installation works in close relation to space, addressing the dramatic transformation of our physical domain and the rapid transition of our surrounding environment - tapping into the emotions and experiences that define our times.

Wang Wei's installation work presents a slice of reality, such as the mundane act of construction, or a particular object, like pillars covered with fur or a blown-up bird trap. Through isolating, appending, or enlarging these common objects, the installation steadily fabricates an alternative reality that draws from our collective knowledge of the world.

Wang Wei's previous works Hypocritical Space and Temporary Space were about creating "space within a space," emotionally engaging the viewer and pushing the "paradoxical relationship of the unusable space within a space [to] force the observer into unknown and uncomfortable territory." Hypocritical Space is a series of installations made of light boxes. Depending on each exhibition venue, Wang Wei would photograph the interior of the architecture in its original state prior to the exhibition. These images were printed onto room-size light boxes that are pushed around the gallery during the exhibition, generating confusion and illusions about the space among the audience.

In Temporary Space, Wang Wei commissioned brick mongers to build and demolish a windowless and doorless structure inside a gallery. The bricks for the structure were re-claimed from demolition sites. After the structure was built and demolished, the bricks were sold back to the brick mongers. In this work, the hurried urban construction process happening beyond the gallery walls was mimicked and condensed through an art happening, a series of documentary photographs and a video within the gallery. It addressed the contradiction between the time and spatial temporality of "building in order to demolish" and our general imagination of architecture, projecting an absurd connection between temporality and eternity. Circumventing the "temporary space" through the narrow passage around the brick structure, this unexpected twist on reality brought on a sense of insecurity and panic when faced with the realities of "speed" and "development."

The wide spread materialistic mentality and superficial pursuit of short-termed benefit in the modern society underline the overbearing influence and deceit of "desires." Desires are the fundamental driving force for actions, manufacturing a popular life style that is full of temptations as well as risks. Wang Wei persistently attempts to tear down the mask of "desire," and to explore its truth. Deleuze thought of desire as production while Nietzsche claimed that desire as a fabrication of non-existent reasons. Wang Wei's Trap brings to life these two divergent ideas, trying to reveal truth by creating deceptions. Rusty and solid iron scaffolding densely interlocks with a bird trap made of smooth and light wood sticks. Permeating the gallery, the centrally placed bird trap adorned with seeds is irresistible to the birds inhabiting the exhibition space. While the blown-up trap is useless to catch any bird, it is large enough to catch the eyes of the viewers who precariously negotiate through the forest of rusty scaffolding to take a closer look. As the audience moves through the openings into the bird trap, they find themselves deep in the heart of an ominous steel bar jungle. This is a zone where once entered, one can no longer tell what is "inside," and what is "outside." In any case, the birds and the audience are caught in a "trap of desires," both fictional and real.

Both personal experiences and social phenomenon are inspirations for Wang Wei's work. Rather than react to specific issues, he creates a unique artistic language and tone in an environment that completely envelops viewers. In the current artistic trend that calls for non-ideological expressions, rejects absolute manifestation of personal emotions and formalism, Wang Wei's work demonstrates all of these three aspects and thus indicates a new possibility for us.

Tuanjiehu, Thursday, July 28, 2005