SHEN XIN Strongholds

28 January – 5 March 2017
PV: 27 January 6 – 9 PM
Lychee One Gallery
38-50 Pritchards Road, E2 9BJ, London, United Kingdom


Text by Gary Zhexi Zhang

Shen Xin’s films are steeped in the cool sensitivity of an artist all too aware of the tentative relations of power, framing and gesture inherent to lens-mediated space. Throughout Strongholds (2016), as her camera skates over scenes of would-be pastoral intimacy, the rotor of the camera drone grinds like an electric carving knife to the ears. A young Dutch couple has travelled to rural Scotland to hold a dance performance in the courtyard of the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Europe. They bathe, they ramble and they talk. Throughout, Shen’s camera patiently observes — and is observed by — a soulful relationship that plays out through the knots and quivers of spiritual and interpersonal meditations.

Strongholds (Digital Video, 70mins, 2016)

Strongholds (Digital Video, 71mins, 2016)

In many ways, the title of the exhibition’s eponymous work is instructive: a stronghold alludes at once to the shelter of fortification and the actively strenuous force of holding on. Like the Red Queen, we run as hard as we can just to remain on the same spot. The exhausting yet intangible circuits of emotional labour — as the similarly sensitive writing of Shen’s one-time collaborator, the late Mark Fisher, made clear — are jacked into the very same networks of capitalist accumulation that establish the parameters of our individual, social, and temporal imagination. It’s not only that “the personal is political”; it’s something more insidious, yet perhaps also more politically constructive. That the proprietary self-consciousness, prejudice and solipsism commonly attributed to the fallible instincts of “human” interiority are quite commensurable with our networks of value exchange seems politically potent and perfectly depressing. Individual and collective suffering commingle and commodify; data conspires with desire to get rich, fast.

Strongholds (Digital Video, 70mins, 2016)

Strongholds (Digital Video, 71mins, 2016)

Provocation of the Nightingale #1 (2017), which forms the other half of the exhibition, presents a Socratic dialogue between unlikely interlocutors. Two women, a Buddhist teacher of meditation classes and one of her pupils, a manager for a commercial DNA testing service, are caught in a tentative romance. The lingering critiques that characterise their doleful discussion of one another’s attitudes and living practices rub up against their intense mutual attraction, itself ethically compromised by the power structure of their student-teacher relationship and the vulnerabilities of past trauma.Ostensibly a meditation on the biopolitics of scientific speculation and quantified selves (the true Nightingale revives the king who has become obsessed with the song of the mechanical bird), the protagonists find themselves caught within feedback loops between the biological and the spiritual, the affective and the geographic, critical knowledge and lived experience. Shen’s dialogue invokes a complex of interwoven ideologies, through which emotional vectors tauten and crumple the warp and weft of the tapestry itself.

Provocation of the Nightgale 1 (Digital Video, 22mins, 2017)

Provocation of the Nightingale 1 (Digital Video, 22mins, 2017)

That other recent bereavement to social theory, Zygmunt Bauman, once suggested that the porosity of globalisation has entirely deprived sovereignty of its power to economically, legally and culturally define the world. Instead, flows of dynamically distributed power multiply through webs of information, finance, and affect. While Shen Xin’s works take interpersonal complexities as their narrative focus, a geopolitical resistance forms, perhaps inescapably, the ground of understanding, cutting through the network at diagonals. Islands of vulnerability are revealed within hardbitten belief systems, while new fronts of resistance coalesce. Therein, perhaps, are the strongholds.





從許多方面來講,展覽與其同名作品的標題帶有指向性:據點,一面提到了築壘設防的避難所,也意指緊抓不放時,積極而劇烈的力量。像紅皇后一樣,我們必須盡力地不停地跑,才能保持在原地。情感勞動的巡迴使人筋疲力盡卻又是無形的—就像曾經與沈莘合作,已故的馬克·費舍爾(Mark Fisher)所寫—它被插回構造我們幻想個體、社會和現世的參數與界限的資本積累網絡本身。這不僅僅是“個人的即是政治的”,而是一些更為隱秘的事物,也許在政治上也更有建設性。被普遍歸結為“人類”內在不可靠的天性—專有自我意識、偏見和唯我論可以在我們的價值交換網絡中被衡量,這似乎極具政治影響力,也十分令人沮喪。個人與集體的受難被混合併被商品化;數據與暴富的慾望形成了共謀。


另一位社會理論界近來痛失的學者齊格蒙·鮑曼(Zygmunt Bauman)曾經提出,全球化的多孔性完全剝奪了主權制度在經濟,法律和文化上去界定世界的勢力。相反,活躍分佈在各處的權力通過信息、金融和情感的交錯,集結成流。雖然沈莘的作品將人際的複雜性作為敘事關注點,一種地緣政治的抵抗不可避免的構建起去理解的基礎,對角式地切開網絡系統。一面新的抵抗戰線在聯合,一面僵化的信仰系統中,出現了脆弱集聚的群島。而也許那兒,便是據點。

Shen Xin (Born 1990, Chengdu) lives and works in London. Her recent solo presentations include Originally Inclusive, CFCCA, Manchester(2016); At Home, Surplus Space, Wuhan (2016); Forms Escape: Prologue, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2016); Shoulders of Giants, Senate House, London(2015); Rhythms of Work-Means Something To You, CAC Shanghai and VeniceBiennale (2015). She recently participated in group shows ExtravagantImagination, The Wonder of Idleness, MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai (2016), TheBallad of Generation Y, OCAT, Shanghai (2015), Does Not Equal, W139, Amsterdam(2015). She is the recipient of the CAC Fellowship for Chinese Artist (2015),and in 2016–17 she will participate in artist residency with ACC-RijksakademieDialogue and Exchange

沈莘(1990生於成都)工作生活於倫敦。她最近的個人項目包括《原本包容》,CFCCA, 曼徹斯特(2016);在家,剩餘空間,武漢;《形態脫逃:序》,Chisenhale畫廊,倫敦(2016);《巨人的肩膀》,倫敦議會大樓( 2015);《工作的旋律-對你也許意味著更多》,CAC上海和威尼斯雙年展(2015)。她參與的群展包括《過剩的想像,無所事事的絕妙》,沒頂畫廊,上海(2016);《Y世代之歌》,OCAT上海(2015);《並不等同》,W139,阿姆斯特丹(2015) 。她同時也是2015年“CAC中國藝術家學術獎金”獲得者,並在2016-17將參與光州亞洲文化中心與荷蘭皇家視覺藝術學院的藝術家駐留項目。