Liu Chengrui: Sir, you are a true labourer


  • Opening hours

    10 : 00 – 18 : 00
    Tuesday – Saturday

  • Location:

    No. 1, -1F Sunken Garden, Lane 9, Qufu Road, Jing’an District, Shanghai

  • Artist:

MadeIn Gallery is pleased to present Liu Chengrui’s solo exhibition “Sir, you are a true labourer” on July 8, 2023. This is the artist’s second solo exhibition at MadeIn Gallery after “Pagan” in 2016. For the duration of the exhibition, Liu will stage on-site performance, connecting his poems, photography, and paintings on display. The artist renders his body as the wrestling field of rituals, myths, consumption, and willpower, in an effort to reshape the grand narrative of humanity and to chart an ambiguous yet empowering territory in between the individual and order, surrender and resistance, the daily and the sublime.

With highly ritualistic and symbolic performances centering around his body, Liu seeks to offset, in a roundabout and repetitive manner, an all-encompassing order within the context of contemporary geopolitics and consumerism. Under this politico-economic order, people can but become part of a social apparatus known to be exploitative, where capital, the instrumentalization of humans, and the reduction of art and artists to a mere occupation are interlinked; meanwhile, local identity and life experiences risk being co-opted by the mainstream narrative of contemporary art across the West and the East. The violence of such an order leaves physical trauma on the subject of Liu’s performance, but in their repetition and ritualization of the trauma, they voice resistance through consent and generate a transformative spiritual power.

This exhibition endeavours to build a contemporary mythology where the individual pursues fleeting freedom in a reality permeated by social control. In his newly conceived work, Liu plays an ultimate “true labourer” with his performance, work, and daily life all staged on a comma-shaped stand, representing the schizophrenia of contemporary people. The audience will be able to interact with the artist through acts of consumption, which both satirizes the instrumentality of our daily communication and establishes a form of “living” performance art. Crucially, the audience’s consumption is the most ritualistic and painful part: despite being a manifestation of the aforementioned order, the consumption on site can potentially lead to the annihilation of ritual, pain, willpower, and art while generating “products” and pleasure. It is therefore not a somberly suffering body that we see in Liu’s performance, but an ordinary one that is enduring what can be endured, enjoying what can be enjoyed. Inherently connected with the world, it is self-mocking and self-coherent in its solitude. In this sense, the pursuit of freedom by the “true labourer” is arduous and universal – they, or rather us, rebel against ritualism with rituals, against fundamentalism with a fundamentalist methodology, against consumerism with consumption, eventually constructing the daily as an anti-sublimity sacrifice to the sublime.