Architectural futurism and urban ‘nudity’: Liu Wei at White Cube
What is urban space without bodies? Chinese artist Liu Wei describes his eerie exploration of deserted cityscapes at White Cube Bermondsey
Beijing-based artist Liu Wei’s show, ‘Nudità’ is a commentary on the state of the world from 2020-2021. Dominating the entire White Cube Bermondsey space, Liu draws on the work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, relating his theories of ‘nudity’ to an urban landscape drained of life and human connection during the pandemic.
Born in 1972, Liu grew up during a period of rapidly accelerating urbanisation in China. The artist has consistently turned to architectural themes, probing how we plan, build, consume and experience our cities.
Expanding upon the artist’s recent solo exhibition at Long Museum earlier this year, a new series of works is a timely examination of how urban space, devoid of human presence, is just a series of redundant, abstract objects.
‘Would a society, absent of physical bodies, lose the foundation of love, and would it still be possible to trust one another without physically getting together?’, says Liu. ‘We compromise everything: our daily life, social relationships, work, even friendship, romance, religion, and political creeds, to preserve the “bare life." After all, we’ve only become more distant, sceptical, or even hostile.’
Among new sculptures and paintings is the colossal installation, Dimension at once resembles a flesh-stripped carcass, a spaceship, and a futuristic cityscape. Forming part of Liu’s ongoing ‘Microworld’ series, the piece feels like the building blocks of a new world observed through advanced scientific and optical tools.
Elsewhere, Liu’s multi-part installation Allegory, is a concrete diorama. Unlike Dimension, this is a city in ruins: fragmented columns, pedestals, roadblocks inhabited by an eclectic combination of species: a giant tortoise, a cat, a snake, a fox and an owl.
‘The emergence of animals (in my work) suggests different inherent instincts within the human body, which brings forth those allegories embedded within,’ says Liu. ‘It assigns a sense of vitality to the abstract urban environment while releasing a dimension of time that has been contracted due to such a pause, then taking the body back to its origin.’ §