New work presented at Iniva (Insitute of International Visual Arts), London Iniva by two contemporary Chinese artists, with the European premiere of a film by Lu Chunsheng who showed in the Serpentine Gallery’s exhibition of contemporary Chinese art at Battersea Power Station. It was also the first solo exhibition in Europe, Make Believe…, by emerging artist Jia Aili.

Both artists reflect on industrial progress, social corrosion and the individual’s struggle in the machine age. Lu Chunsheng’s film, The first man who bought a juicer bought it not for drinking juice, mixes documentary and fantasy to theatrical effect. The characters in the film are both human and mechanical, and represent the consequences of the globalised era in their repetition of senseless acts. Orson Welles’ fictional account of an alien invasion in The War of the Worlds which was mistaken for a real news item, is the impetus for the film. It illustrates the influence of technology, mass media and the power of fear. The two protagonists in the film are a reaper machine, used for harvesting grain, which is given Frankenstein-like characteristics, and a mechanic who cares for and repairs it.

The film casts a relationship between man and machine in which humanity is denigrated to serve an alien species born from its own hands. For Jia Aili’s first solo exhibition in Europe at Rivington Place, he presents monumental new paintings, and an installation specially created for the window overlooking Rivington Street. The site-specific piece is inspired by 16th-century painter Caravaggio’s famous painting The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. In his work Jia Aili uses a muted colour palette and quick brushwork, conjuring up the disorientating emotions felt in a developing society. Living and working in Beijing, Jia Aili narrates private moods rather than public events or modern-day China. His intense and emotionally charged work reflects on the human condition and the individual’s vulnerability in a rapidly modernising society. The artist has been selected from a new generation of artists in collaboration with Platform China Contemporary Art Institute.


Artists Lu Chunsheng and Jia Aili discuss their work translated by filmmaker Tianqi Yu.


Lu Chunsheng’s, The first man who bought a juicer bought it not for drinking juice is the product of a residency at Artpace San Antonio, Texas, organised by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Iniva’s staging was organised by Fountain as part of a wider touring exhibition of the film in Europe and South East Asia, curated and produced by Keith Whittle. Film commissioned by Artpace San Antonio and supported by ShanghART Gallery, China. The work subsequently toured to Newcastle in partnership with CIRCA Contemporary Art Projects as part of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, a programme of international artist moving image.

Counterpoints: Lu Chunsheng and Jia Aili
Lu Chunsheng and Jia Aili, Counterpoints exhibition catalogue 2011

The accompanying catalogue to Counterpoints: Lu Chunsheng and Jia Aili includes newly commissioned essays by David Thorp and Keith Whittle and installation photographs.

View the exhibition catalogue

Special thanks to David Thorp, Lorenz Helbling, ShanghART Gallery and Hans Ulrich Obris, artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries, London.