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Some works are impossible to talk about. They are labyrinthine and defy analysis. Consider certain pieces by Debussy and many other masterpieces from the history of music (I shall not venture onto the terrain of the history of art in general, but to me it seems obvious that a number of major visual artworks resist analysis). The words we try in an effort to define these objects soon seem to fall apart, to go up in smoke after offering a first illusion of clarity, however tenacious they seem.
But still these labyrinths continue to attract analytic curiosity and lives continue to be spent on them. It is good to think that some objects remain eternally inaccessible, that all we can have is a fascinating contemplation, which is no doubt also a path of self-discovery.
I do not know whether the work by Chao Liang belongs in this category, but it is presented in a strangeness that agitates our relation to history, to our senses, to our common sense, and upsets the poor applecart of accumulated certainties.
It evokes the invention of a technique and of an art, but as a kind of negative, with the secret goal of leaving us alone, naked before what is thought by the world of scholars to which we may sometimes imagine we belong.
There is also the evocation of a major historical oeuvre, or actor that appears to have gone unnoticed (as must certainly happen, for there will always be those strong temperaments who deliberately or accidently opt out of the usual social games). This salutary scrambling which, implicitly, seems to observe or question the interest of many works today (or yesterday) in the light of an eccentric fiction, is profoundly heartening. It tells us that our natural inclination is to be the prisoners of a present that numbs and blocks thought, creation and life. Chao Liang offers us a vision that is at once rare and universal and exhorts us to make an effort.
Arnaud Petit (18 April 2016)
I am anxious to thank warmly Daniel Dobbels, Madeleine Van Doren, Stéphanie Robin, Eric Prigent, Bertrand Scalabre, Yannick Delmaire and Alice Boucher.
One thank you to Arnaud Petit, for his advice of expert and his encouragements throughout this difficult project. Thanks to Eric Poitevin and to the photography.
Chao Liang was born in 1985 in Tianjin, China. He studied sculpture and photography from 2004 to 2008 at the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts. In 2008, Chao presented a solo exhibition at Agnès.b Gallery in Hong Kong. From 2010 to 2013, he continued his photographic training in Eric Poitevin's studio at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. Since 2014, Chao has re-orientated his artistic research towards screenplay writing and filmmaking at Le Fresnoy - Studio national des arts contemporains. Regardless of the medium, death, memory, experience and separation are key issues in all of his work.