Bai Ye | Cheng Qianning | 2013 June
Telescope presents two artists from Xi’An in their first Beijing exhibitions.
“…who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” is from a verse in the Bible referring to a place or a state of being that is beyond the abilities and senses of humankind to enter or perceive, but it exists and bekons nonetheless.
Light is essential in the work of Bai Ye and Cheng Qianning. One works with light from within to reveal what is hidden in darkness hoping to find a way out into the day, the other works with light from without surveying from unseen vantage points the lives and remnants of cities and people below. One is intimate, the other is objective, but both reveal vulnerable states of man.
Bai Ye’s photos are made with his mobile phone and a flashlight in abandoned buildings often inhabited by anonymous figures. They are alien and haunting landscapes imbued with the hope of transcendence and flight but still mired in a dark oppressive reality. The central focal point in his photos is a burning white pupil of light from which all else is illuminated, unlike that of a human eye or dark star that sees by consuming light. Bai Ye’s imagery is enigmatic but occasionally a clue is left behind to give you a foothold of meaning; a cigarette butt, a stone, a strand of barbed wire, moon, clouds... but this trail of crumbs is short lived. What seem to be moonlit nighttime skies are really just opaque concrete walls. What appears to be a way out of ones imprisonment is just an illusion. But in this place even illusions are welcomed and provide a ray of hope for the freedom of a brighter tomorrow.
Also included in Unapproachable Light are Bai Ye’s video observations of the strange world around him in short abstracted daily actions, places, and sounds. They are emotional, provocative, and haunting microscopic animations from life.
Lonely Satellite, is a beautiful but technologically imposing object suspended above a pool of black glass surrounded by what looks like volcanic stones. The wing portions of the satellite resemble solar panels but play video reconnaissance of ancient ruins as seen from far above where all of the anxieties of humanity have faded away into dust and silence. These images recall surveillance video that have been transported to distant regions of space then returned to earth for recording and analysis. It is hard to escape the ‘great eye,’ We are being watched at all times and everywhere whether we know it or not. Looking from the outside into our world below Cheng’s satellite endlessly receives and transmits digital information from life or remnants of past lives on earth below. Most common surveillance material is mundane and usually inconsequential, but for the Lonely Satellite floating in the dark recesses of space, it offers the endless possibility of finding clues to the mysteries of life and death and what it means to be human.
Tags: Bai Ye, Bejing, Cheng Qianning, China, elaine, James Elaine, Qianning, Telescope: China, unapproachable light, Ye