A VISION OF THE FLOW OF TIME
19.06 – 18.08.19
Zhang Wenrong has been pursuing his work in progress project "A Vision of the Flow of Time" since several years.
With a jeep and a truck he travels to different parts of China, loaded with bales of plastic fabric, which is used in China for fencing of construction sites or buildings under construction, also often it is processed into large transport bags, as in particular migrant workers use them in China - in Western countries they circulate under the label 'China Bags' or 'Third World Bags'. For his project Zhang Wenrong also buys large packs of obsolete Chinese newspapers.
On the chosen location, sometimes in larger cities such as Beijing or Shanghai, but also in remote areas of China such as Inner Mongolia or Xinjiang, Zhang WenRong tells the local residents about his project and asks them if they want to cooperate. Most are very interested and curious. He pays them wages for this time, and sometimes there is also dispute over the amount, as everywhere.
On the webs of the stable plastic fabric, the unfolded newspapers are glued, layer by layer in the height of the newspapers size, about 60cm. The width of the endless webs depends on the specific situation of the landscape or urban locality, e.g. under a high street in a big city, over a hilly steppe landscape, or on a section of the Chinese wall, through rocky gulches, etc.
From every 60 cm increase in newspapers row Zhang WenRong takes a picture with a large-format camera. Later, he adds together these photos one by one on the computer like classic cinematic frames to form a film sequence. The result is a dynamic flow of time that runs through landscapes, streets and even over the Chinese wall, gradually losing sight of itself, but reappearing elsewhere as a constant stream - a river of time, that the transient streams of information can not resist.
However, the resulting film is not the ultimate goal of the artistic project of ZhangWenRong, but rather a sort of interim report from a working process that could and should be resumed and continued in many places around the world. Thus, it can also be used as an inspiration for further stages and sequences of the project, and there exists also a making-of, a video clip of the ongoing work. where interested people, or generally an audience, get an idea of the project and the people who worked on it.
The actual work is therefore the temporary interventions in various places, lasting several weeks, depending on cultural, social, landscape and weather conditions, sometimes also of political or administrative problems.
As the collaborative work of a larger group of local people, sometimes up to 300, the duration of working on this image of the flow of time, which emerges and disappears, becomes a dramatically vivid visualization of the Dao Buddhist concept, which has been reflected in the cultural and spiritual proposition "Follow the stream of time". To resist the movement of space-time, is meaningless, which does not mean, however, to passively keep out of everything. It is more likely one that questions excessive demands of power and time-space control.
Participatory art projects have become notorious over the past two decades. In many of them, the involvement in the creation of a work of art is intended to help overcome the gap between art and prosaic reality. Sometimes they tend to rely on a didactic goal, sometimes they just complement "leisure activities", sometimes they draw attention to local traditional artistic practices to protect them from disappearing - and sometimes, without much conceptual effort, they succeed to involve many different people in a work in progress, where "the journey is the goal".
"Following the current of time", therefore, is linked with a basic attitude in the history of Chinese culture, which - unlike the European one - has formed an idea of uncontrollable universal infinity. - In Africa, there is a remarkable parallel: "The Europeans have the clock / we have the time," as a Senegalese artist, Deborah Fortes, once remarked this saying..