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山水 – Illuminated Spirit

Illuminated Spirits

Artist Chen Tianzhuo’s solo exhibition, Illuminated Spirits, unfolds with two projects, The Dust and Ocean Cage, that together propose ideas of cross-species and cross-life entanglement, presenting an allegory depicting an alternative relationship of humans within nature.

From the heights of the Tibetan plateau to the depths of the Indonesian sea, from the celestial burial ground at Damu Temple to the Sunday worship in the fishing village at Lamlera, from swirling vultures to the eye of the whale, from the scriptures chanted by monks to the ancestral mumbling generated by artificial intelligence… death, rebirth, wind, foam, debris, ghosts, beings, and nothingness are all simultaneously positioned in Illuminated Spirits, consisting of a continuous poiesis, and a cycle of reconciliation and life-energy mediation. In the exhibition, humans are not sinister, eerie, or uncanny; on the contrary, they are dispensable, abstract, and insignificant, merely a manifold thread intertwined with mountains, rivers, animals, plants, spirits, and machines. In this way, humans and nature are woven together and resonate with one another, constituting a symbiotic cosmos by co-emerging, co-dreaming, and weaving a specificity of ‘locality’. 

If The Dust emphasises the eccentric separation of spirit and body and the sense of displacement of the embodiment at a particular time, then Ocean Cage proposes the role of the spirit as an ancestor. This ambiguous yet influential narrative shines an illuminated light on the struggle of the fishermen of Lamlera – faith, food supply, economic and social life, as well as the spiritual and cultural crisis of the post-colonial context – all of which are caught in the ideological rift.

With a more-than-human perspective, the Illuminated Spirits probes into the ethical imagination and cultural conflict presented among the convoluted life forces in the current post-human reality. Through ritual studies, video installations, and performances, it explores the diverse definitions of existence, the forms of spirits, (non-)material forces, and the complex relationship between indigenous culture, ecology, and contemporary civilisation.


山水(Illuminated Spirits