Comment: Götterdämmerung Time

I. Imagery

At first glance of Qu Guangci's Knife Gang II (2008), the European myth Götterdämmerung emerged in my mind. In the bloody fight by fate, the gangsters are circling in the clouds, ledding their hands to kill, and their sophisticated facial features are showing the entanglement of nervousness, indifference and distraction. Their expressions are drawn taut by rigid muscles.
In Götterdämmerung, the entire world is supported by the Yggdrasil Tree. There is a serpent of despair called Nidhogg under the tree gnawing the roots. When the roots are eventually snapped, it is time of Götterdämmerung. In Götterdämmerung, the kingdom of the gods will be captured by evil and all the resistance of the gods is doomed to failure.
Myths reflect the human mind through the vague and abstract philosophy, and express the connection between them by the obscure imagery. Qu Guangci's works are tinged with the ambiance of fatalism in northern European myth. Many art critics have pointed out that Qu has successfully transformed western artistic elements into the text of Chinese history and social conditions, but if we see his works from the perspective of the authority and the observer of the authorization, we'd find the allegory is very insightful. Firstly, the characters in uniforms imply the assembly, the order, the position, the legal authority, or even the legal violence. However, Qu puts these authorities in the stage being watched. All the movements are monitored by a superior audience and become the passive ceremony.
Moreover, in Qu's sculptures, every figure, either in a group or alienated from a group, shows his fatigue and helplessness. This expression not only reveals the passivity of the authority, but also breaks the admiration of immortal heroes. Qu shows the Götterdämmerung moment by the subtle imagery His works describe the natural human desire to terminate something, or be terminated by something. Behind the turmoil and violence are the fears and vulnerability of the hierarchies.

II. Forms

Bonzes excavated from Yunnan can be a good comparison to Qu's recent sculptures. As offering of utensils, the cylinder or cone-shaped bronze with ornamental lines provides the public with a most direct way to understand Tien Culture. With a comparable aesthetics, the theatrical presentation of Qu's sculptures carries out a similar narrative logic to these bronzes. In his individual figures, Qu presents the solitude found in the bronzes from the Warring States, such as Bronze Parasol Decorated with a Standing Bull and Bronze Cylindrical Sewing Case Decorated with a Standing Deer Standing appears the same visual impacts with Qu’s Beloved Motherland (2005) and The Invincible Eastern Warrior (2007). Other works such as Giant series distinguishable for their long sharp shape are also similar to the awl in the bronze. And his group figures such as Knife Gang II give an amusing feel reminiscent of Bronze Cowrie-Container Decorated With a Battle Scene on its Cover found from the mid-Han Dynasty. The circles further emphasize the dramatic movements and the fatal tension, it captures a moment of extreme excitement.
In Qu’s sculptures, the contrast between the lanky trees and heavy figures, as well as the contract between the huge figures and the unproportionate becomes the irony of the the authorization. Especially the Giant series, his latest works, intimates the standard pose of Hitler, but the hand and the feet are anomalous small, by which Qu pigmies the icons of authoritarian.
Knife Gang series is among the most mature art works of Qu's artwork. The story of Knife Gang (2007) has been changed from fighting together against a rat, to fighting each other in Knife Gang II . By this change, the artist has outlined his definition of rivalry and his motif of social situation. With smart visual arrangement, the tension between the six figures is well demonstrated by their special relationships as well as their frozen movements, their expressionless round faces and their hollow, inane eyes.

III. Nonsense

Looking closely to the facial expression of Knife Gang II, one might associate them with the ladies from the cave paintings of the T'ang Dynasty. There is a common hedonism in these two ages. In terms of forms and themes, Qu's works respond to the pop culture, especially to western pop culture selected by the mass media. Qu transforms our cognition of pop culture by badinage, and reserves the artistic elements into entertainments. All these transformation finally achieve a sense of nonsence.
Walter Benjamin thinks, the real comprehension of history comes form the melancholy, as well as “ the wish for peacefulness, also know as the empathy from laziness”. Qu’s art creation realizes the two incompatible processes precisely. The entertaining elements in his works should be esteemed as the reflection of hedonism in China now. However, it is not the same as the western entertainments. Though Qu’s deep observation of society, he narrates the nonsense and the inanity of hedonism, which is his real melancholy comprehension of history.
Discus Thrower is a special work by Qu. Based on Myron's classic sculpture of the same title, Qu converted the muscular male body usually demonstrated in museums or for educational programs into a fleshy, even feminine or obese figure. The imperfection created by the artist concerns the viewer, one can't help but notice the destroyed beauty and the derision which are the artist's attempt to deconstruct the sacredness of icons. It is a regretful nonsense of paradox. Moreover, the collapse of perfect body suggests the metaphor of anti-totalitarian. Totalitarian countries always emphasize the perfect body to consolidate their mores and orders by formalizing the body into militarism. The reversal of Discus Thrower should be a significant statement of his political ideology. As to the theme and the motivation of this work, it is worthy to make another comparison with The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin. With a similar theatrical premise and sense of excitement, these two works show comparable forms, affection and plots; the difference being that in Qu Guangci's work, the subversive logic of survival developed by Chinese people in their deplorable reality is represented through his irony.

 Yaji Huang


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