UTOPIA GROUP [DENG DAFEI & HE HAI]

UTOPIA GROUP: ALL ABOUT FEINTS

2015.11.18 – 2015.12.15

CURATOR: YAN YUTING

Between Art Lab (Beijing) is pleased to announce the opening of Utopia Group’s (Deng Dafei & He Hai) independent project exhibition.The exhibition All about Feints presents two projects of the Utopia Group, which give expression to their imagination and artistic creation from a unique international perspective as Chinese artists.It will last until December 15, 2015. The opening will be held at 5:00 p.m. on November 18, 2015. We look forward to your visit.

Utopian Group

The Utopian Group has been initiated by artists Dafei Deng and Hai He in the year of 2008. Series of artistic projects were successfully carried out thereafter, including the one-year session of Family Museum , UK-based the Palace of Puzzle, and organization of 798 Art Festival for sake of artistic cultivation. Utopian Group creation is based on reflection of self living condition mingled with cultural research approaches, in order to give an account of reality out of universal ideal expectation, thus drawing art inspiration with imagination. The two artists, well equipped with sense of experiencing, have been travelling around the world to obtain a deeper investigation of real life. The ideal of utopian is rooted in Utopian Group art creation with varying presentations according to changing times. Utopian Group strives for spiritual enlightenment embodied in art works. In the meanwhile, Utopian Group has been working on publication of related theoretical books.

UTOPIA GROUP: ALL ABOUT FEINTS
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THEME

The two groups of project works displayed at the exhibition, “North Korea International Microfilm Festival” and “Enclosure”, from a unique international perspective and a non-artistic starting point, explain vividly their narrative style with rich details and a touch of humor.

“All about Feints”, as a title, expresses both Utopia Group’s active strategy and their political stance. The two projects seem to be directed at “the other”, but they have undeniably some bearing on their own situation. The moment a feint is made, something we cannot say about ourselves is questioned: it is what we Chinese value as implication. Since it cannot be talked about in words, let it stay in silence.

“All About Feints”, started by Deng Dafei and He Hai, opinions collected online about North Korea and its social reality were expressed in various ways. The theme of this microfilm festival is therefore well-defined and clear for the public to join, in different, simple and free ways, in the discussion of this particular social culture, something by no means remote from us. The project turned out to be very well-participated and finally ended up with ten sets of videos, posters and a final award presentation, all done by Utopia Group. For their first time, they came in direct contact with such a big international topic and shifted their role from producers to organizers as far as the production form was concerned, so the works vacillated between artworks and a curating experience. The ideas contributed online were included in a full narrative of the utopian style so as to re-create elaborately from free public expression an image of North Korea, a very special political entity, using irony, jokes, appropriation, parallelism and other figures of speech. Taking advantage of the Internet, Utopia Group took the form of “complete loss of control” to created a synthesis of art production and clear or even exaggerated political stand. In the unity of opposites of “utopia” and “anti-utopia” highly imaginative art language was born.

 

“Enclosure”, a composite project of performance, video, painting and objects, came out of arduous physical effort. In September 2011 Utopia Group was invited to a one-month residency program in Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester for its triennial. During the dialogue with the history of Manchester, the two artists visited many places that were closely linked to the city’s history, trying to know more about it through conversations and data material, including Manchester Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, the Roman Fort, China Town, Chinese Women’s Center, Jewish Museum, Manchester Cathedral, and the old industrial zones of course. The two artists connected theses venues on the wall and drew a special city map of Manchester. The locations, marked in red, formed a closed route, which turned out to be in the shape of a sheep. With fake sheep skin, they then made a wool ball, 1.5m in diameter, stuffed with foamed plastic. Wrapped up from head to foot in fake fur, they rolled the ball along the route, sometimes forward sometimes backward, as they were pushing the ball in a slightly weird way: on their fours, with their leg kicking the ball backward. Actually they were crawling backward, so a contradictory and dialectical relation between progression and retrogression was formed. The “sheep” here became an essential image. “Enclosure” called our attention to some problems caused by the accelerated progression human has made since the Industrial Revolution. In the marching crowd, the two artists got down and retreated toward the years prior to the Industrial Revolution, to the animal state actually. “By retrogressing slowly, we were trying to set aside a virtual piece of land, on which people, not dominated by the industrialized time anymore, could regain a more natural sense of time,” said Utopia Group.

What they did, as a matter of fact, did lead a small number of people to make a pause or slow town to enjoy what might be only a moment of leisure or idleness in surprise. It’s the peculiar charm of art, isn’t it? With their own practice they respond to our social reality. Their seemingly eccentric model highlighted a specific social problem and placed it in the conflict between progression and retrogression.