Mar 6

Ma Yongfeng, Volcano, C-type Print (2007)

HAMPSHIRE, UK.- ArtSway will feature Ma Yongfeng: The Cretaceous Period, on view 28 July - 16 September 2007. The Cretaceous Period is the first UK solo exhibition of art work by Ma Yongfeng. Ma Yongfeng is a Beijing-based artist who has received international recognition for his photographic and video pieces examining the ways that humans position themselves in relation to the natural world. The artist describes his photographic work and video installations as “relating to aspects of animal culture, man-made environments and topographic modelling”. Hosted at the Chinese Art Centre in Manchester for three months and subsequently in residence at ArtSway, Ma Yongfeng has spent a total of five months researching and developing his work.

Ma Yongfeng came to international prominence with his notorious work, Swirl (2003), exhibited at MOCA in Los Angeles, and PS1 in New York in which six coy carp were subjected to a fifteen minute wash cycle in the drum of a washing machine. The work raised a debate about the human treatment of animals both within and outside an artistic context. The artist has continued to explore the relationship between humans and their nature displays, photographing empty dioramas and “natural habitat” enclosures in zoos and museums, and revealing the centrality of humans and their own narratives in these spaces.

During his residency in Manchester, Ma Yongfeng visited numerous zoos and museums and conducted exhaustive research relating to all aspects of Natural History. For his subsequent residency and exhibition at ArtSway the artist has chosen to focus on a significant period in Earth’s history, The Cretaceous Period, after which he has named the exhibition of video works and large-scale photographs. These images examine the cretaceous period in relation to the artist’s continuing research into natural history, animal culture and fossil archaeology alongside his interest in archaeological simulations, geographical models and displays in natural history museums. Ma Yongfeng’s new work has developed from the photography of animal enclosures and man-made environments to the documentation and recreation of these sites as ‘sets’ in his own studio, as in the work of German photographer Thomas Demand. Ma’s images, however, create what he terms an “installation after an installation”, referencing and refashioning earlier media such as television, stage-production, film set building and installation. Hibernation (2007) depicts a bright chocolate box snow-scene in which one imagines a hiding animal, and the photographic work Volcano (2007) depicts a miniature volcano, complete with authentic looking lava that the artist constructed in his studio in Beijing. This working volcano is also featured in one of two video works in The Cretaceous Period, and comments upon the relationship between artificial environments, natural habitats and aesthetics.

Ma Yongfeng was born in Shanxi, China in 1971 and is a media artist currently based in Beijing. He has exhibited widely across Europe, the United States and China – most recently in Chinese Video Now at the John Hansard Gallery, The Fragmented Gaze: Video Art from the PRC at Deborah Colten Gallery, Houston TX, and Becoming Landscape, Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing. He was selected for a residency by ArtSway and the Chinese Art Centre Manchester from an exceptional shortlist of artists nominated by Chinese curators and professionals.
Mar 2





Feb 21
Feb 15

Storm Model
5min  color  sound  2005
Single channel video installation, projected
One DVD player, one projector

In Storm Model (2005), Ma Yongfeng inverts his strategy to address a related set of issues. The 5-minute video impersonally records the destruction of a model village by "forces of nature." While the turgid water tossing the helpless fish about in The Swirl is obviously part of a humanly made design and a mechanized expression of routinized abuse, the water depicted in Storm Model is supposed to be torrential rainfall and flooding-a simulated retribution to humanity for its iniquities, perhaps, like the biblical floods meant to cleanse the earth. Here, however, here there is no Noah, no ark, and there are no animals to fulfill promises of regeneration. There is only destruction as simulated "nature" reclaims the earth, sending us back to our origins.

Maya Kóvskaya

In preparing this video work Ma Yongfeng spent several weeks working on a large model of a Chinese mountain village that is struck by a severe storm, complete with torrential rains, floods, and combining sound, and light effects.After the video was produced, Ma Yongfeng proceeded to destroy the installation. This work sets out to challenge the relationship between digital video, installation, and the common practice of model building,particularly by natural history museums. These man-made constructions represent mock-up residues of the real world, where people and animals are transported into the simulacra of the origin of species.

Thomas J. Berghuis
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Feb 13
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