Liu Wa, Bao Yang: MADLANDS


  • Location:
    Long Museum (West Bund), Shanghai
  • Artist:

Long Museum (West Bund) is pleased to announce the first dual solo museum exhibition by artists Wa Liu and Yang Bao, titled “MADLANDS,” from May 11 to July 21, 2024. This exhibition showcases a new body of multimedia works created over the past two years for the staircase gallery, including their collaborative video work, Wa Liu’s latest series of paintings, and Yang Bao’s large-scale stainless steel and 24K gold sound sculptures, oil paintings and mixed media works. Inspired by their extensive travels and field research, the artists delve into the complex symbiotic relationships of the more-than-human world through interdisciplinary collaboration and individual expressions. Envisioned as a multi-sensory experience, the exhibit invites audiences into the futuristic Madlands of adventures and possibilities where diverse sensibilities and lifeways coexist and entangle in a vast and complex ecological network. Here, a small catalyst may precipitate a cascade of events, propelling us toward an unpredictable future that unfolds in nonlinear progression.

Yang Bao and Wa Liu’s single-channel 4K video, “No One’s Game,” draws from their long-distance rainforest trek and motorbike journey. Decades ago, the tropical rainforest, once shrouded in mist, was severely damaged by chemical defoliants.Today, as global temperatures continue to rise, these deforested lands struggle against rising sea levels, urging efforts to restore ecological balance by replanting mangroves. Meanwhile, another pristine rainforest is being clandestinely logged and replaced with palm oil plantations, where the fruit is harvested and processed into biofuel at a low cost to meet the enormous global demand for clean energy. Across the sea, a serene lake now covers what was once a cluster of villages, submerged by a dam. As humans relocated, the surviving wildlife began to reclaim their territories in the remaining rainforest, while inadvertently transforming these deserted islands into prime destinations for eco-tourism.

Wa Liu’s new series of paintings, inspired by their field research in diverse natural and man-made landscapes—from lush rainforests to barren deserts and volcanoes—captures the unease and turmoil of the climate crisis through a multi-species lens. Her vivid and evocative works intimately capture the impact of human activities on various species, from bullwhip kelp wilting under marine heatwaves to pelicans observing lithium fields, and the descendants of warhorses wandering through abandoned plantations. Grounded in anthropological observation and research, Wa Liu’s works brim with surreal imaginations and visceral emotions. Her paintings boldly combine delicate imageries with immediate brushstrokes, capturing moments of suspense and tension with unsettling clarity. Envisioned as magical gateways, her works transport viewers from the mundane to the sensuous realm of the more-than-human world, where the world-making agendas of different species overlap and reshape each other’s existences. Her paintings embody a journey beyond the bounds of reality, seeking to provoke a paradigm shift: Can we transcend our anthropocentric worldview, bounded by human sensibilities and lifespans, to fully understand the multi-dimensional and nonlinear symbiosis among all species.

Yang Bao’s large-scale stainless steel sound sculptures and oil paintings explore this concept of nonlinear symbiosis through experimental and ever-evolving visual soundscapes. His site-specific 8.5-meter tall mirror-finish stainless steel sound sculpture,“Infinity Tower,” reflects and refracts the gallery space into multiple dimensions. Inspired by the piano, his 24K gold-coated stainless steel sound sculpture, “Superstar,” vibrates with sound waves, amplifying the bodily energy of sound. These monumental super-instruments bring to life his original composition “Infinity Music,” capturing the emotions and intuitions from their journeys. Within these sculptures, a chance-based matrix of sounds and reverberations composes an unpredictable symphony that mirrors the sound of the universe—sometimes discordant, sometimes harmonious. Drawing on his background as a classical pianist, Yang Bao creates performative action paintings to encapsulate the essence of live performance and the minimalistic aesthetics of his composition. He performs on the canvas, accumulating oil paint into subtle spectrums and rich textures, or uses a palette knife to add and subtract paint, allowing the paintings to spontaneously develop unexpected outcomes. His mixed media works, featuring mirror-finish stainless steel in geometric shapes and nearly perfect matte oil paintings, blur the boundaries between the visible and the invisible, redefining our conventional perceptions of sensibility and spatial dimensions.

As the title suggests, this exhibit conceptualizes a sensuous and multidirectional space that is not solely ours but also shared by birds, insects, trees, oceans, mists and all protagonists constantly intra-acting with us at every moment. Agency is no longer exclusively human but is dynamically distributed among all actants on an equal footing—whether different species, living or non-living things, or even matters like paint and sound, all are vibrant and active. In this paradigm shift, the subjects are also the objects, and vice versa; we are simultaneously the objects of others’ desires and challenges, each endowed with the profound potential to alter another’s path. The artists believe that the most authentic form of creation is to be part of the symbiosis, to dive into this tumultuous swarm of bodies as they collide, entangle and dissolve. It is in these spontaneous and contingent moments that serendipity and magic may arise.

Here and now, everyone is in focus and everything is in action in Madlands.