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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The Day After Tomorrow

Former Sydney resident Shen Shaomin takes you to the edge of life and death.
By Zacha Rosen
November 21, 2011
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The Day After Tomorrow

Former Sydney resident Shen Shaomin takes you to the edge of life and death.
By Zacha Rosen
November 21, 2011
  shares

Shen Shaomin's Summit brought world leaders together at last year's Biennale to ponder the global financial crisis. Each was preserved motionless under glass. In 4A's The Day After Tomorrow he offers some similar sensibilities. I head the sound of distance is twelve sculpted bells, which can be played as you enter: painted porcelain rings, while another is resonant brass. There is a deep, thumpy plastic bell, a steel hammer almost impossible to lift, and two small wooden bells that tap out orchestral hoofbeats. They don't prepare you for the centrepieces upstairs.

I want to know what infinity is, invites you to put blue covers over your footwear and stride out into a desert of salt. This black room smells of glue, the salt crunches. In the corner, a naked old woman sits on a white deckchair. Wrinkled and sleeping, she looks like the salt has withered her in death, like a too-intimate Guanajuato mommia. But she breathes, only sleeping and serene, with shoulders cuddled along the deck chair and her feet adrift among sheets of salt.

Opposite, in I sleep on top of myself, infants and adult animals lie on white mounds. Three piglets together, a dog, a mildly nodding chicken, a sheep with its young. Their hair or feathers lie stripped around them, as pillows. Soft pneumatic breathing and hot-house spotlights make them seem to live. Throughout, they slip around your perception. They flick back and forth, seeming to be incubated embryos then appearing like plucked meats awaiting the oven. In this exhibition, with these animal forms laid out opposite the old woman at rest, Shaomin's suggestion seems to lie more in sympathy for the animals, but he makes nothing implicit. Leaving, the humidity of the spotlights falls away and the crunch of the salt brings you back to yourself.

Image: I heard the sound of distance, Shen Shaomin

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