Last Night


Platform China Until Feb 24

First conceived in 2010 in Beijing, Last Night is a site-specific installation by young and promising artist Sun Xun, exploring the fictional quality of storytelling through theatre and drama design – like a staged storyboard on which ideas are experimented on for further animation work.

At this solo exhibition at Platform China’s Chai Wan space, a twisted and over-exaggerated setting welcomes the audience with its fanfare-like atmosphere. A voluptuous vermilion drape seems to be on the edge of collapsing; a few lamps are randomly positioned on the floor and on top of discarded newspaper clippings; baroque framed paintings featuring scenes of rural life, animals and human figures are haphazardly arranged on one wall.

On the other side of the room, a background ‘graffiti’ mural of a modern Noah’s Ark is interfaced with suspended drawings and cryptic verses. And it is there, right in the midst of that haunting confrontation, that you start to recognise the rhythm to the chaos: this labyrinthine and expressionist exploration, after all, is nothing but a complex and multifaceted investigation of themes like time, world history, historical idealism, or even revolution.

While consciously revealing a critical and political awareness pointing precisely towards the history of China, Last Night also presents us with an apocalyptic story about a world in despair. History, or what we can make of it, can only rely on an individual’s subjective understanding and weigh its importance or accuracy from a temporal distance. What we are left with is a false construction of its notion and, as the artist wrote in 2008: “our conception of history has been twisted passively or voluntarily. There are lies, secrets or maybe farces behind all these things.”

To further reinforce this statement, a series of recurring figures are included in this work: the crow, the pig, the ‘empty world’ and, above all, the black top hat of the magician. The magician, in particular, is a key figure in Sun’s previous animation/video works; it embodies the lie, the uncontrollable and the lawless.

Informed by the work of William Kentridge, Sun is presenting a ‘scene of the crime’ with this project. It is a sombre picture, where feelings are manipulated by palette, medium and composition in such a way that it is no longer possible to distinguish between the ‘truth’ and the ‘lie’, leaving the viewers in a vulnerable and uncomfortable situation.

“When people feel lost, they mortgage their souls, and pin their hopes on us,” Sun said of his film 21 Ke (21 Grams) on the occasion of its presentation at the 2010 Venice International Film Festival. “In return, we give lies, as they look much more beautiful than the truth…” And it is precisely this intricate role of the artist, to juggle skilfully between reality and representation, that continually informs the work of Sun – including this outstanding exhibition.

Arianna Gellini


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