TRANSEUROPA - A PROJECT BY CE JIAN (DE) AND YUZHENG CHENG (CN) / CURATED BY HANNAH BECK-MANNAGETTA AND LENA FLIESSBACH
Europe on trial. The refugee crisis, terrorist attacks, nationalist parties gaining traction in elections, Brexit. And all of a sudden, the European Union project is called into question. Based on a political map of Europe, the Berlin-based artists Ce Jian and Yuzheng Chengplayed a game of Chinese Whispers in order to create 60 maps in 60 days using acrylic paint on paper.
With the initial intent of creating a mimetic image of the original map, the artists proceeded to alternately use the map last received from the other artist as a model to create the next one. With this a joint diary developed, blurring the lines of individual authorship. Ce Jian grew up in Germany, Yuzheng Cheng in China, together they are familiar with the inside and outside perspective on Europe. The current upheavals in Europe and their media coverage, in which maps of Europe are omnipresent, inspired the artists to realize this project.
In “Transeuropa” Ce Jian and Yuzheng Chen rearrange Europe. They react to the unpredictable dynamics of refugee routes, Frontex’s border management programs and continuous displacements of national barriers and within the EU with lapidary, ironic visions of the future. The full view of all 60 paintings is almost overwhelming. The map paintings, meandering through the exhibition space, render the chronological sequence and the gradual shifting of colors, shapes, and with them borders visible.
Every political map has an element of subjectivity, it cannot possibly be neutral, and is simultaneously always an ideological instrument that reflects hierarchical structures. This installation metaphorically visualizes historical expansion, current instabilities and potential change within the EU as well as the numerous debates about its identity and form. The further the project advanced, the more monotonous the disciplined transfer of information in the process of painting—performed as faithfully as possible—proved to be. Following rational rules, the daily routine developed its own momentum out of exhaustion. This led to a spontaneous, increasing loss of control, infected with an anarchistic element. The deviations and “mistakes” made by each of the artists progress from map to map. Taking turns painting amounts to a discourse in which one party takes up the other’s prompt, yet also modifies and contradicts it. By and by, the primary information is mutated and distorted—although this process inherently questions “right” and “wrong”—until finally only quasi-abstract color fields remain, and the material takes on a life of its own.
The additional pieces that the artists created parallel to the installation at WHITECONCEPTS Gallery oscillate between a summary, essence and progress chart of the project. They take up elements of the working method; in the “Map Cuttings,” they condense these into collages of amorphous patches of color, abstracted from the depictions of individual countries. Their overpaintings on two found romantic landscape paintings, titled “Territorium,” expand the conceptual idea of work in the sense of art history and ideology. This genre of old European painting is closely linked to the idea of a homeland, as well as the passionate glorification thereof. Out of fear of those who were forced to leave their homelands, Europeans now imagine their homelands to be under threat. These artworks bring home the discrepancy between the external perception of Europe and its current cultural self-perception as a union.
On the occasion of the exhibition, a limited-edition artist book will be published, featuring all of the paintings in chronological order; a flicker book of the EU map’s transformation. Enclosed between an abstract color palette as the front cover and a coloring book image of the EU as the back one, the maps form a narration without words.
TRANSEUROPA, 120 pages, softcover, published by A Book Edition
Book Launch: Miss Read, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 14 – 16 July 2017