Yu Ji ; wasted Mud
A large hammock hangs from corner to corner of the Chisenhale Gallery, suspended right above the concrete floor. Made of shiny black plastic mesh and wire, it sparkles in the spotlight. Fabric is bundled and crumpled, with debris stacked, drywall, foam insulation, metal, wax and cement loosely pulled together in its folds. Jaded Ribs (201921) do nothing to denote support or comfort commonly associated with a hammock.
About Yu Ji
Yu Ji was born in 1985 in Shanghai and although she currently lives and works between that city and Vienna, her practice and background are still very much tied to where she grew up and where she directs Am Art Space, the only non-profit art space organization in Ho Chi Minh City.
Lack of softness, sensuality or humanity
She is one of the artists selected to represent China at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, where she presents a series of busts and concrete bodies (Flesh in Stone), as well as the same network of iron chains hanging from the ceiling and covered with turpentine. I remember those works that aroused curiosity and irritation for lack of softness, sensuality or humanity in concrete figures cut short, contrasting with the seductive and translucent light of the plastic chain.
Something about its surroundings
For this Chisenhale committee, it certainly communicates something about its surroundings: this particular area of east London is characterized by rows of houses, modest Victorian terraces and 20th century estates springing up in devastated neighborhoods. , as do the networks of canals that crisscross its lanes (one runs alongside the Chisenhale building). Built during the height of the Industrial Revolution to transport goods inland from London’s booming docks, the canals today are quiet backwaters, populated by pedestrians, vehicles and pedestrians.
Something about globalization
Frequented by bicycles and boats, their crumbling canals are now under the pressure of vigorous regeneration. But Yu Ji has also brought objects from his workshop in Shanghai to mix them with the rubble of construction sites in London. Which is which? Can not say. And perhaps that also says something profound about globalization, especially since much of the current construction boom in London is fueled by money and Chinese developers. I was drawn to an almost seductive piece of cardboard lying in a hammock, its top covers rubbed to create a magnificent frill.
Human interdependence, exchange and transformation
Other works in the exhibition include some of his concrete torso – a seemingly desperate, decapitated version lying still in a corner (Flesh in Stone – Rema 2001 (2021). A top layer of concrete peeling off her midsection is clearly an allusion to the birth of her first child (Flesh in Stone Ghost No 8 (2021). The exhibition flyer reads: “The Sculpture Series; This new print comments on human interdependence, exchange and transformation. I might be more intrigued by how the top of the table where the body sits has a hole cut out to accommodate the void.
Found Furniture, in the states of deposit and arrival, are also presented in Forager, an installation she created for the Edouard Malingue gallery in Shanghai, at the end of 2020. The work is located in an empty apartment, empty, with plants potted and household items strewn across the desolate space, communicating an unpleasant mix of rushed departures and unprepared arrivals. This frame was brought to life by a text she wrote in private, suggesting how a survivor of a shipwreck could do facing seclusion, just with a few cherries.
The feeling of fun in the nature
I wonder: does she see London as a space as relaxed as the dominating concrete, the building features that dominate all of her presence and the feeling of fun in nature? A bilingual publication in English and Mandarin, Wasted Mud, produced to celebrate the show, could reveal more. But the experience of the show itself made me want to soak up the lush green spaces of nearby Victoria Park or dive into this tranquil canal.