East / West,
Paradise in Reverse
In August 2005, Saskia Janssen (‘s-Hertogenbosch, 1968) stayed at the artist residency ‘Lijiang Studio’ in Lijiang, Yunnan province, South-Eastern China.
At Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS, Janssen , who works with elements of documentary and performance, shows a video and sound installation, with the town of Lijiang as a red line.
The town of Lijiang and it’s inhabitants, the Naxi tribe, was hardly known to the West until the adventurer, botanist and writer Joseph F.Rock ‘discovered’ the town in 1922 and made it known to the West by his many articles for The National Geographic.
In the late 1980s, Lijiang was named as an official tourist site by the Chinese government. A new town and airport were built alongside the old town, making it accessible for mass tourism .With this development, Lijiang saw not only the arrival of tourists but also of Han Chinese entrepreneurs, who rented the traditional wooden houses from the Naxi and transformed them into hotels, cafes and souvenir shops.
Many of the Naxi population moved to the new town and became landlords.
Today, walking through the old town one sees the Han dressed in Naxi costume, playing Naxi music while in the new town, the Naxi wear modern clothes and listen to Han music.
For the exhibition at Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS , Janssen has made, with help of inhabitants of Lijiang ‘small ritualistic acts’ as a ode to the old and new town: A ‘flower border’ between the two towns, an ode sung to the old town and a reconstruction of a photograph from a 1920’s edition of The National Geographic; a shaman altar for good fortune. And she recorded music in both towns as a document of a changing culture. From this, Janssen has produced a record:
EAST / WEST, Paradise in Reverse,
music from the two towns of Lijiang
“The supermarket shelves have been rearranged. It happened one day without warning. There is agitation and panic in the aisles, dismay in the faces of older shoppers. They walk in a fragmented trance, stop and go, clusters of well-dressed figures frozen in the aisles, trying to figure out the pattern, discern the underlying logic, trying to remember where they’d seen the Cream of Wheat. They see no reason for it, find no sense in it.”
Don de Lillo; ‘White Noise’
Uta Eisenreich is fascinated by the attempt to establish order into a reality, that is constantly leaking over the borders of comprehension. In her work this fascination is often expressed to a level of obsession. She employs existing methods of classification, super imposes them in a mischievous fashion, without disregarding an underlying sense of utopian optimism, that everything can find its place in a universal order.
Her latest work “Vocabulary” concentrates on our means of understanding reality; language being one of them. Is it possible to have any thoughts without having a language? What kinds of thoughts need a language to happen? How much does language influence knowledge of the world and how one acts in it? Can anyone reason at all without using language?
“Vocabulary” is an installation consisting of tableaus of strictly arranged clusters of numbered objects. Each object corresponds to a word. The clusters are displayed as still lifes, as if waiting to be photographed. The collections appear to be placed in an order according to a predetermined continuous logic. However, at closer inspection irrational storylines begin to emerge, until the initial recognizable order system is no longer tangible.
This work reveals functionality but also the shortcomings of language, the significance of association, the construction of sense and the idea that a word is just glued to an object for a reason that is rather circumstantial.
Initially appearing as a compulsively organized walk-in photo-dictionary, ”Vocabulary” evokes the feeling of standing in hall, full of twisted mirrors.
Text by Zhana Ivanova