Beverage (The Fall of Icarus)


Resin, mineral pigments

191 × 118 × 153.5 cm

With its cross-contextual reorganization of distinct visual symbols, the “Beverage” series expands XU ZHEN®’s attempts at transforming civilizational experiences with contemporary concepts. Across the sculptures and paintings in the series, ancient Greek pillars, as a symbol of human civilization, are planted onto various classic imageries in Eastern and Western cultures, including Classical sculpture, Chinese blue and white pottery, and scholars' rock. While displacing themselves isomorphically with straws, these pillars defamiliarize and tease whatever it is they insert into, rendering it both out of place and abreast of the times. The artist uses the everyday action of “sucking” as a metaphor for the interactive relations within humans’ cognition of civilization in the post-globalization era: for instance, the search for a future out of history, the conjuring of illusion by the East and the West of each other, and, not least, the symbolization of the uncertainty and dynamism of contemporary reality.

The Fall of Icarus is a statue by the 18th-cen- tury French sculptor Paul-Ambroise Slodtz. It depicts the scene in Greek myth where Icarus's wings made of beeswax and feathers are melted because he flies to close to the sun, resulting in his fall and drowning in the sea. In his work, XU ZHEN® plants an ancient Greek column onto Icarus's fallen body. A dramatic monologue is thus formed between the two, be it telling of self-affirmation and repetition, or self-questioning and dilution. The work hints at the moment when a civilization is confronted with itself in the post-globalization era, when it must ponder how to break through the cognitive limitations as a subject and, with the help of a self-reflexive gaze, to extract energy from civilizational experiences.

Beverage (The Fall of Icarus)

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