Artists: Zhou Yulong
Curator: Shen Qilan
They say that there is nothing new under the sun, but Zhou Yulong's work makes us re-think that idea.
Did dragons really exist? Were they legendary creatures or were they organisms that actually existed? If archeologists discover dragon bones or a group of people personally saw dragon bones, does this guarantee that dragons actually existed?
Zhou Yulong's work does not simply produce a dragon; it constructs a legend of dragons. The authenticity bestowed by photographic images become his magic formula. His work intends to narrate and reconstruct, not simply create pictures.
Searching for the One is a long-term project built on the legends of dragon bones. The people of an entire village collectively went in search of dragons, walking through the village as if daydreaming. This formidable collective aberration is reminiscent of the collective unconscious of ordinary Chinese people described in Soul Stealer. The allegorical scene is absurd yet real, conjuring a range of emotion.
The Onlooker is the extension of this story. In different corners of this land, creatures from legend appear before people's eyes, and the onlooker is one of the narrative elements that makes up this legend. Eyewitnesses are not just ordinary people; the last emperor and dragon bones are also brought into the frame. The joy comes from the interactions and collisions between fictions.
Zhou Yulong once wanted to become an archeologist, and he is curious about everything from remote antiquity. He believes in the stories of spiritual beings; the things he may have thought were false may be true. Even when lies proliferate, there is still truth.
Zhou Yulong is very mischievously and diligently playing a magical game with history. After he became an adult, he learned skills in commercial photography and gained the ability to manipulate pictures. The stories and characters he will never forget became the subjects of his work. He juxtaposes impossible images and establishes a certain authenticity within his fictions. In The Departed, the sense of fiction and reality comes from his outstanding ability to set a scene and tell a story. He is fascinated by multiple narratives, and he believes that there is a strange glamor to people who have failed; these multiple perspectives give the work a complex structure.
Zhou Yulong's works are constructed like a skyscraper (or Bach's music). In these painstakingly rehearsed and planned pictures, the stage of history seems both magnificent and absurd. Behind the magnificent architectural structure lies an inquiry into historical nihilism. He said, "The earth is like dice thrown in the universe, a gambling house where everything is fixed."
The story in Midday Sun comes from his memories of childhood. In a primary school in a county town, all of the teachers and students participated in a criminal tribunal, and a beautiful girl was executed because she swam naked and had many boyfriends. He returns to this memory in this sad, moving narrative, inspiring us to rethink the flowers and plants crushed by the wheel of history.
He did not return to the site; he reconstructs the narrative. He said, "No information in the universe exists independently. The things we encounter can always appear again in another form." He is always searching for a power that comes from the communion between his inner world and the universe, which is the power that shares the voice of history.Power writes history, but narrative can reconstruct power.
When we think that we have seen Zhou Yulong's pictures before, we enter into his magical game. The Death of Actaeon was shot in 2019, so it seems like an allegory for this century: Soldiers are pursuing their quarry through the wilderness; to whom will the deer fall? Who is the soldier, and who is the deer?
There is nothing new under the sun; there are only old things. Only through the departed and the onlooker can they become stories.
At the exhibition, viewers will discover that they have become one of the onlookers.
Who is The Departed, and who is The Onlooker?
In a post-truth era, we are inundated with information and the midday sun illuminates the dragon bones everywhere.
Who is not an onlooker in history?
Look up to see the clear moon in the sky.
The Departed No.1019.2019
Serching the one_Onlookers NO.1.2017
Serching the one_Onlookers NO.7.2017
Born in 1978, Zhou Yulong now lives and works in Shanghai.
Zhou's works are permeated by a historicist temperament in a way, and carry a Hieronymus Bosch-like religious mystique. He makes good use of humor to express both serious and heavy themes, sometimes implying a trifle of irony as Pieter Bruegel. Born into an intellectual family, Zhou spent his childhood on a myriad of historical stories, myths and legends. He chose archaeology department for his university application, but failed in the English test. He ardently love Akira Kurosawa’s films and was obsessed with the writers Jorge Luis Borges and Arthur Charles Clarke. He opposes nationalism and is wary and skeptical of established conclusions. Once he said: "There is no definite answers to all questions, without exclusive answers, because all judgments are changing." From his experiences and works, it is easy to understand why he is so fond of history and the unknown. Perhaps it is why Zhou are not interested to label himself into any category. He is not restricted by methods of creation, and does not believe in any so-called definitions.
Zhou makes his living as a commercial photographer. This experience has given him a strong edge in terms of image manipulation and control. An independent income has become a critical support for his creativity. Because of his identity as a photographer, he is able to focus more on his favorites, keeping his works pure and capable of saying "no" to any external disturbance, without falling to be arty. Zhou's works are more like fictions, articulating a strong narrative, which barely features romantic love or ambiguous lust, which is not his main concern. He puts more emphasis on great compassion for mankind and a deep sense of powerlessness in the torrent of time.
——Arthur L. Gombrich
Born in Shanghai in 1980, Shen Qilan is an art critic, curator and cultural scholar, receiving her Ph.D.in philosophy from the University of Münster, Germany. She was the editorial director of Art World magazine and editor-in-chief of the art department at Insight Media publishing house. She is also an editorial board member of Book Town magazine.
Shen Qilan focuses on the persistent dialogue between art and philosophy. She co-curated the exhibition "Aura of Poetry" by Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai in 2014; worked as an consultant to "Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou 1906 - 1977" exhibition, 2016; and curated the large-scale exhibition “A.R.Penck: Will Sign Become Reality?” featuring the German postwar art master A.R.Penck. In 2018, she was invited by the Culture and Education Sector of the German Consulate in Shanghai, to curate the annual project "Bauhaus Class" and curated the exhibition " House of Insomnia " for "Goethe Open Space".
Shen Qilan planned and presided over the international forum “Detour: A Dialogue between Art and Philosophy" for Shanghai Biennale 2018. In 2019, she curated the German contemporary art exhibition “Angelus Novus” and served as academic consultant for the exhibition "Sightings| Positions of Art from Germany". In the same year, she also curated and presided over the international cultural high-end dialogue series “The Futures”. She presided the project “Charging Station for Emerging Curators”, which is a collaboration of the School of Philosophy of Fudan University and Power Station of Art, this project has received the National Ministry of Culture Award.
She has contributed to art columns on many international art magazines and catalogs for international art institutions, including Financial Times Chinese website, Artifeng, Shanghai Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, among other important media and institutions. She authored the catalog featuring the British artist Antony Gormley’s exhibition at Uffizi Gallery in Italy. She also authored catalog featuring artist Qiu Zhijie in Skira publishing house, Italy.