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Since opening our doors in 2008, we have been keeping pace with groundbreaking artworks that venture into uncharted territories, while providing support to experimental practices in art. In 2024, we took a significant step forward by expanding and upgrading our gallery space. Alongside this, we have introduced The Antechamber, a dedicated project space that operates separately from the gallery. The Antechamber features cutting-edge art projects invited by Magician Space. It aims to build a platform that encourages unrestricted experimentation for artists with visionary insight, intellectual depth, and creativity.

 

The inaugural guest artist we are honored to exhibit in The Antechamber is Liu Ding. As an artist and thinker who dives into the depth of conceptual art, he works around the historical progress of contemporary art through the lens of intellectual history. His art practice engages in meaningful dialogues with both contemporary individuals and the broader society we live in. We are thrilled to present his latest artwork “Room of Boundlessness” in the first project at The Antechamber. Previously, Liu Ding has curated two group shows under the same title. This new work, however, marks a new direction by amalgamating the insights of artists from various generations into a singular, cohesive installation. In the current moment of restless uncertainties, these thoughts etched into the narratives of works the intellectual and emotional journeys of people in the contemporary society as they navigate ever-changing circumstances. They stand not only as symbols of angst but also as poignant portraits of those who “see no road ahead.”

 

The word “boundlessness” derives from the poem Song of Leyou Park by Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu (712-770). The feeling of “boundlessness” refers to not only the dusk, but also the bleak prospect of one’s own career, the deep concern over the country’s political future, and the profundity of a long-standing history beyond the eons of heaven and earth. In this sense, “being solitary in the room of boundlessness” demonstrates the feelings of both helplessness and anticipation, the strength to uphold an independent spirit and cultural influence, and the intellectual quality of daring to confront the daunting reality using one’s individual power.

 

In this “Room of Boundlessness,” Liu Ding has selected a collection of works and documents created by contemporary Chinese artists and writers. This collection crafts a narrative out of the true mental states of individuals who endured various dramatic upheavals from the 1960s to the present. Beginning with people’s mind, feelings, dispositions, inherent nature, potential, and ambition, Liu Ding hopes to gain a more meticulous and flexible viewpoint in order to understand humanity and events through their respective historical contexts. Notably, the devising of the exhibition’s language embodies Liu Ding’s commitment to valuing the intellectual drive behind an artist’s work as much as the artistic expression itself. He attaches the descriptions of each exhibited piece on the walls, and places the artworks themselves on the floor, back facing the visitors. When viewing the exhibition, visitors will first read the creators’ background stories and their intellectual and emotional states, then physically engage with the work by picking it up with their own hands, hanging them on the walls, and finally, contemplate their visual expressions. “Room of Boundlessness” unfolds in two volumes, with the second volume set to be revealed at a later date.

Liu Ding: Room of Boundlessness (Part 1)

Since opening our doors in 2008, we have been keeping pace with groundbreaking artworks that venture into uncharted territories, while providing support to experimental practices in art. In 2024, we took a significant step forward by expanding and upgrading our gallery space.
Alongside this, we have introduced The Antechamber, a dedicated project space that operates separately from the gallery. The Antechamber features cutting-edge art projects invited by Magician Space. It aims to build a platform that encourages unrestricted experimentation
for artists with visionary insight, intellectual depth, and creativity.

The inaugural guest artist we are honored to exhibit in The Antechamber is Liu Ding. As an artist and thinker who dives into the depth of conceptual art, he works around the historical progress of contemporary art through the lens of intellectual history. His art practice
engages in meaningful dialogues with both contemporary individuals and the broader society we live in. We are thrilled to present his latest artwork “Room of Boundlessness” in the first project at The Antechamber. Previously, Liu Ding has curated two group shows under the same
title. This new work, however, marks a new direction by amalgamating the insights of artists from various generations into a singular, cohesive installation. In the current moment of restless uncertainties, these thoughts etched into the narratives of works the intellectual and
emotional journeys of people in the contemporary society as they navigate ever-changing circumstances. They stand not only as symbols of angst but also as poignant portraits of those who “see no road ahead.”

The word “boundlessness” derives from the poem Song of Leyou Park by Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu (712-770). The feeling of “boundlessness” refers to not only the dusk, but also the bleak prospect of one’s own career, the deep concern over the country’s political future, and the profundity
of a long-standing history beyond the eons of heaven and earth. In this sense, “being solitary in the room of boundlessness” demonstrates the feelings of both helplessness and anticipation, the strength to uphold an independent spirit and cultural influence, and the
intellectual quality of daring to confront the daunting reality using one’s individual power.

In this “Room of Boundlessness,” Liu Ding has selected a collection of works and documents created by contemporary Chinese artists and writers. This collection crafts a narrative out of the true mental states of individuals who endured various dramatic upheavals from the 1960s
to the present. Beginning with people’s mind, feelings, dispositions, inherent nature, potential, and ambition, Liu Ding hopes to gain a more meticulous and flexible viewpoint in order to understand humanity and events through their respective historical contexts. Notably, the
devising of the exhibition’s language embodies Liu Ding’s commitment to valuing the intellectual drive behind an artist’s work as much as the artistic expression itself. He attaches the descriptions of each exhibited piece on the walls, and places the artworks themselves on the
floor, back facing the visitors. When viewing the exhibition, visitors will first read the creators’ background stories and their intellectual and emotional states, then physically engage with the work by picking it up with their own hands, hanging them on the walls,
and finally, contemplate their visual expressions. “Room of Boundlessness” unfolds in two volumes, with the second volume set to be revealed at a later date.

Hu Shangzong, Self-portrait, 1969, oil

In 1969, before taking his own life, Hu Shangzong, a renowned painter during the Republic of China era, painted a small self-portrait and left his last words on the back of the panel. He explained the harsh reality he faced of getting little recognition for his works and therefore
his inability to continue his artistic creation and even his own living. In the face of such desperation, there seemed to be only one way of going forward. This painting created as a testimony to the artist’s will power to take his own life, is filled with melancholy sentiments.
The decision and determination to depart from the earthly world is in a sense also a manifestation of humanity and subjectivity.

Liu Ding: Room of Boundlessness (Part 1), exhibition view

Left: Wang Rizhang, Firm Tree and Fierce Tiger, 1986, ink wash painting

Wang Rizhang (1905-1992) studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in his early years, and taught at art school after his return to China in the late 1920s. Since 1931, he has been involved in politics, serving in the National Government of the Republic
of China. Since then, he has experienced different political events, and his life has been marked by political hostility. In the late 1970s, when he was already an old man, Wang Rizhang had the opportunity to return to paintings again. As a pioneer of the Western Painting
Movement, Wang Rizhang switched to ink painting in his later years when he was nearly blinded by glaucoma. His paintings are childish and clumsy, depicting content that is sometimes joyful and sometimes brutal. This ink wash painting, created at the age of 86, depicts
a pine forest and a descending tiger eating a rabbit. It is a bloody scene. The upper inscription on this painting reveals the fact that Wang had made this gory painting as a gift to a friend. One cannot help but wonder what kind of friend of the artist could have received
such a heartfelt message.

Right: Feng Guodong, Drunkenness, 1980, print

Artist Feng Guodong’s black-and-white wood print Drunkenness, created in 1980, depicts a night at a small liquor store that he frequented. It was a kind of liquor shop commonly seen in Beijing in the 1960s and 1970s, which mainly sold bulk white wine and cold dishes,
and was patronised by workers who loved to drink. In the days of material scarcity, customers could not necessarily afford the cold dishes such as peanuts or shredded bean curd that were sold in such shops. Feng Guodong has seen customers licking rusty nails and dipping stones
in salt to go with their wine. In this image, a customer sat with both hands on his cheeks, his eyes staring directly at a small dot on the small table in front of him, a wilted begonia fruit. The man with the curved back had already drunk too much, and that begonia fruit
was his snack every time he brought with him. He didn’t eat it, but looked at it every time he took a sip of wine. After a long time, the begonia fruit became dry and withered until he threw it away and replaced it with another one. This story full of bitterness sounds
a little bit romantic today, but it is also a little bit of light for the people at the bottom of that era who aspired to live a dignified life and to transcend their dilemma.

Liu Ding: Room of Boundlessness (Part 1), exhibition view

Zhang Kebiao, Killing Between Father and Son, 1980s-1990s, Manuscript

In the early 1930s, Lu Xun had a profound impact on literary scholar Zhang Kebiao (1900-2007) in his devotion to the New Literature Revolution. Being a follower of aestheticism spearheaded by Lin Yutang and Shao Xumei in China, Zhang was on the opposite side of the spectrum
in terms of creative interests, but he admired Lu’s uncompromising and unrelenting principles against reactionary things and was actually well acquainted with Lu. In 1957, Zhang returned to his hometown in Haining, Zhejiang province from Shanghai after many adversities,
and had lived a life of obscurity until the 1980s when he began to publish his writing. In the manuscript Killing Between Father and Son which was written in the 1980s and 1990s, he began with the story of fathers and sons killing each other in the ancient Chinese royal palaces,
and extended it to the complex social context where there are many examples of fathers and sons among ordinary people turning against
each other because of what is at stake. In doing so, he pointed out that the conflict between the moral code of filial piety, one of the most deeply rooted values in China, and the need for people to go beyond moral constraints in order to defend oneself. It is evident to see
the much cherished moral connection between Zhang and Lu in this text through its confrontation with the complexity of human beings. It shows from a very extreme perspective that people’s complex emotions and desires have the potential to override social rules and conventions,
and thus returning to the human level to reflect on the fact that the so-called rules are, in fact, ultimately a test of human nature.

Wang Jin, To Marry a Mule, 1995, photography

Wang Jin was a leading artist in the conceptual art movement of the 1990s. In 1995 he completed his work To Marry a Mule in Beijing. In front of the camera, dressed in formal attire, he marries a mule in full costume. The shooting of this “serious” wedding photo came from
Wang Jin’s experience of being rejected eight times by the U.S. Embassy for his visa application. At the time, Wang Jin’s wife was studying in the U.S., and he had planned to travel to the U.S. to join her, but he was repeatedly denied a visa, which led to a divorce.
The intransigent absurdity of the bureaucracy brought great changes to the artist’s family life. The artist’s helplessness and bitterness were transformed into an extremely absurd picture, in which Wang Jin could only take a donkey as his wife. In this wedding photo,
the “bride” is wearing a lady’s hat, stockings and blush on her cheeks, draped in a pink wedding gown, while Wang Jin is holding a bouquet of roses. Wang Jin said he chose pink red as the main colour of this work because “no one understands the meaning of red anymore”.

Chen Yifei, The Boat Section, 2023, oil

During the epidemic, a number of young people in Guangzhou initiated the practice of kung fu together to renew traditional Wushu in a contemporary way. Friends who were unable to see each other due to the quarantine of the epidemic took the opportunity of practicing
together in an outdoor public space to get together, to exercise their bodies, and to channel their emotions and keep each other company. The Boat Section depicts them practicing kung fu together every Tuesday at the boat section in Xiaogang Park. There are several forms of
activities in the picture: those who loosen their bodies, those who push their hands, those who run to climb trees and row a boat, and those who sit around and chat when they are tired, and so on. Chen Yifei was inspired by the park landscapes painted by Republican painters such as
Tan Huamu and Li Ruinian, and the sports scenes (ice skating) painted by Xiao Shufang, etc. These modernist paintings show the peaceful, happy and egalitarian atmosphere of the public spaces that emerged in New China under the ideology of New Democracy, and are full of
humanistic flavour. In this painting, Chen Yifei imitates the style of his predecessors in the Republic of China to present a scene of friends spending time together, listening to each other, and learning from each other among the setting sun, tree shadows, and ripples of light.

Liu Ding, Waiting for Orders, 2024, sculpture

Liu Ding, Waiting for Orders (detail)

The fast-moving urban life continues to unfold at the cost of a great deal of cheap labour. The delivery men ensure efficiency in this age of accelerated development. Driven by algorithms and speed, they run between restaurants, flower shops, office buildings, office blocks,
and flats. While waiting for their orders, they wander beyond fruit shops, pharmacies, restaurants and other places of consumption, curled up in the narrow space of their motorbikes, browsing through their mobile phones. Their yellow uniforms make them particularly conspicuous
in the urban space, but few people pay attention to them because they are the most replaceable, and when one falls, there are countless others waiting for grabbing orders, and replacing them. Countless unemployed people are ready to join the ranks. Liu Ding portraits these people,
they are the fuel of today’s era, but also the ashes.

Liu Ding: Room of Boundlessness (Part 1), exhibition view

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