Alison Jacques Gallery, London is pleased to present a solo exhibition of the British artist Catherine Yass. For her first exhibition in the new gallery space the artist will show her latest film Lock, which was shot at the Three Gorges Dam in China's Yangtze River. In addition to this film, Yass will show a group of new light boxes relating to her time in China.
Stretching one and a half miles across and six hundred feet high, the Three Gorges Dam is one of the world's largest structures of its kind. Perhaps the most ambitious piece of engineering in China since the Great Wall, this project has not been without controversy. In addition to the 1.3 million people being displaced by the rising waters, there are concerns over the ecological consequences and potential loss of many valuable archaeological and cultural sites.
Projected in two parts on opposite sides of the gallery, Yass' film places the viewer in a deep ship lock which cuts through the dam and whose doors are sealed at each end. As the water level rises tiny figures moving about the boats become recognizable and the vast size of the structure becomes apparent. The scale is temporal as well as physical; the sheer walls and rows of columns are reminiscent of ancient temples as well as being, literally, concrete embodiments of futuristic dreams.
China's history seems present even in the most futuristic projects. The scale and ambition for social and economic change runs back through Mao and the Cultural Revolution to the country's huge dynasties. The entrance to the lock is barely distinguishable from the exit, which raises questions about the nature and direction of progress. The film itself seems stilled as if the camera gates have also been closed. Time is suspended in an unresolved present where past and future have been shut off. The boats float in a transitional space and time where outside references are absent, engendering a sense of claustrophobia that is only relieved as the doors slowly open, albeit onto an uncertain future.
The photographic works in the exhibition concentrate on the exit and entrance of the lock: the heavy doors, mooring columns and signs. In these, Chinese characters loom as large as houses and columns stand in the water like relics from a past civilization.