Walk along the beach and you’ll find bottlecaps strewn across the sand; stroll down the street, and you’ll see plastic bags tangled in the tree branches above; turn on the TV and you’ll hear reports of record-setting heatwaves or wildfires burning out of control for weeks on end. Signs of an ecological crisis are everywhere you look.
Continuous Regeneration, an interdisciplinary exhibit on environmentalism and sustainability at Shanghai’s Columbia Circle, offers a sobering picture of our troubled relationship with nature. In painting, installations, video, and multimedia design, the show invites us to reflect on how our own actions affect the world around us.
Everyday sights we can no longer see
Continuous Regeneration brings together artists from around the world working in several different mediums. In Israeli artist Zadok Ben-David’s Blackfield, a spread of blackened trees calls to mind the devastation of wildfires dominating the news; Japanese artist Yasuaki Onishi’s installation Vertical Emptiness shows hanging branches covered in an ominous, unnatural white frost; and in Chinese artist Qian Honglin’s The Puppet’s Last Experiment, human body parts, volcanic eruptions, and expansive ruins, seems to warn us we’ve nearly exhausted our natural resources, and the apocalypse is nigh.
Deforestation, the demolition of entire mountains, and our uncontrolled rate of trash production are all very real threats to the environment. Yet, in many countries, people who are truly aware of the future implications of their actions are far and few in between. Continuous Regeneration believes art can help begin a much-needed dialogue on the topic.
“持续新生”将来自世界各地的艺术家聚集在一起，以各种不同的媒介进行创作。炭黑的树木成片出现，很难不让人联想到山火肆虐的新闻——这是以色列艺术家 Zadok Ben-David 的作品《黑色田野》（Blackfield）；
非冰非雪的白色树枝悬空而置，似是“雾凇”，却是枯枝——这是日本艺术家的大西康明（Yasuaki Onishi）带来的《纵向空白》（Vertical Emptiness）；
Can we change? What’s next?
Our overconsumption and wasteful practices have become a real threat to the natural world. But how do we change? How do we better ourselves? These are the unanswered questions posed by environmentalists everywhere.
They’re also questions being asked by Chinese artist Yuan Long. His contribution to the exhibition is Regeneration, an art piece that sets crosshairs on the issue of plastic pollution. To create it, he collected over 20,000 plastic bottles from 4,000 households. The sheer scale is meant to give much-needed perspective at the scope of the problem: the bottles used in the massive installation are merely 2% of the amount of plastic waste the world is going through every minute. Through an accompanying questionnaire that audience members can jot down ideas of how this global issue can be addressed, Yuan makes the work participatory.
这次的展览上，中国艺术家袁隆把目光对准了环保最大的威胁之一：塑料。他从将近 4000 多个家庭里收集了总共 2 万多只塑料瓶。这个巨大的装置《新生》，仅仅占全球每分钟被消费的塑料瓶总量的 2%。通过附带的调查问卷，袁隆请每个参与者写下如何解决全球塑料垃圾问题的想法，以此让观众参与进来。
Putting “garbage” to good use
While sustainability has become more mainstream, people are still learning how to cut down on the wasteful practices we’ve grown so accustomed to. One work exploring the topic is Yan (meaning “perpetuity”), created by the florist company Zhi Zhi. At events and banquets, floral arrangements are often just tossed in the trash once they end. By collecting all of the discarded flowers and materials from a recent event, they built a stunning installation that extends from the stairwell into the upper floor.
Chinese artist Yin Xiuzhen introduced several “bookcases” made from recycled clothing. It began with him collecting unwanted apparel from friends and family, but that expanded into sourcing additional unwanted garments from strangers. This upcycling project is the artist’s method of inviting discussion on the idea of “ready-made.” In a fast-moving capitalistic society, can the old be given new life? Can they be endowed with new purpose?
This concept of reusing and recycling is something that can also be extended beyond physical materials. These works suggest that the recycling process isn’t just physical—it can also be artistic.
Ifs & the Future
Continuous Regeneration aspires to be more than an art exhibition, and the name itself is layered in meaning. “Continuous” alludes to the exhibit’s goals of being an unbroken thread between the past, present, and future. “Regeneration” represents the active steps taken towards change. It’s the process of turning nothing into something, and from that, the discovery of unknown possibilities and opportunities. “Through this innovative exhibition, I would like to show people how artists are dealing with sustainability and how it works in practical terms with concrete actions,” says curator Li Yemeng.
From concept to art, from art to reality: perhaps one day we won’t need the lens of art to remind us of nature’s beauty, and we can tread more softly on the world around us. Yet do that we’ll have to find a different path than the one that got us here.
Tickets for Continuous Regeneration are now available online.
2019 年 11 月 24 日 ～ 2020 年 2 月 16 日
Tuesday ~ Thursday, 11 am ~ 6 pm
Friday ~ Sunday, 10 am ~ 9 pm
1262 Yan’an West Road
Changning District, Shanghai
Contributor: Chen Yuan