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Chen Hangfeng Reverberates Social Issues Through Art

Multi-media artist Chen Hangfeng depicts social issues in all his artistic practices, which span the mediums of video, installation, performance, engraving, and digital prints.

In one of his early video installations Santas’s Little Helpers he filmed the daily lives of people in a village that produce 50 percent of the world’s demand of Christmas ornaments, meanwhile recording the negative effects upon the village peoples’ lives and their environment. The video was installed in a Christmas gift box and the viewers could only peek through a small hole on the box to watch the video.

In another work Bubble City, Bubble Life, a parody on the title of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo theme “Better City, Better Life”, a bubble machine was installed in a huge metal cage. While beautiful bubbles were blown out from the machine, they freely and elegantly floated in the air till they reached the cage and burst, only few small bubbles managing to escape though the small holes in the grid. This work implies the distance between dream and reality in a cruel capitalist society, and meditates on the frugalness of life.

In his latest work Invasive Species: The Vegetables, Hangfeng focuses on the government’s prohibition of Shanghainese residents to plant vegetables in public green areas for personal usage. The artist installed photographs of vegetables on different light boxes, constructing a story where the illegal vegetables almost took on supernatural powers, spreading and overtaking surrounding “legal” plants. According to his artist’s statement, the light boxes flash creating virtual dialogues between the vegetables. Here Hangfeng presents the fact that all species adapt to their environment, though the nature of these environments are directly affected by human behavior.

This small sampling of Chen Hangfeng’s evaluative artwork highlights the urgency to reflect upon and reconsider our intervention in nature.

Images courtesy of Chen Hangfeng

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