Beijing-based artist Chen Wei’s practice actively blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction through the construction of carefully staged scenes and handcrafted objects. The Club — his first solo exhibition in a public institution in Australia — comprises a series of photographs and installations that fabricate a visual archive of Chinese club culture. Chen has meticulously recreated the architecture, interiors and culture of nightclubs to celebrate this previously undocumented subculture and to provide a commentary on wider social changes that have been taking place in China.
China’s club scene emerged in the early 1990s as a critical space for collective gathering and an environment for individuals to freely express themselves within the communist country. However, the alternative nature of nightclubs has diminished in subsequent decades as China has relaxed its economic policies. “While they were once the realm of intellectuals and artists as a place to exchange ideas, nightclubs are no longer radical spaces,” says Chen.
“For me, these enchanted bodies immersed in the smoke and laser beams reflect the current mood in society today — be it cultural, economic or political. No one knows where we are, and which direction we will be heading in tomorrow.” Building on Chen’s wider interests in the cultural significance of nightlife and storytelling, this body of work is ultimately concerned with the individual’s place in a rapidly modernising country.
The Club is curated by Elias Redstone.
The exhibition is made possible with the generous support of Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai.
Sponsored by Eco Cabinets Pty Ltd.
Part of Melbourne Design Week, an initiative of the Victorian Government in collaboration with the NGV.
Image: Chen Wei In The Waves #5 2013, courtesy the artist.