Ritual Spirit

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White Rabbit’s latest exhibition takes in 25 artworks exploring religion, ritual and spirituality in contemporary China and Taiwan

The foyer installation at White Rabbit is typically a show-stopper and a tone-setter for the exhibition housed in the three storeys above. The current configuration announces a show about religion, ritual and spirituality in contemporary China and Taiwan, via two works that offer a yin/yang combo of the ostensibly gauche and gaudy versus the serenely beautiful. The first thing you see is Taiwanese artist Peng Hung-Chih’s stainless steel sculpture-cum-fountain ‘Farfur the Martyr’ (2008): crucified Jesus wearing a Mickey Mouse head, suspended above a pond of water in the shape of the Jewish Star of David – as streams of water pour into it from his eyes and wounds.

As curator David Williams explains, the piece purports to explore the slightly unholy trinity of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The first two are obvious in the body of Christ and the Star of David; the latter is referenced by the Mickey Mouse mask – which in fact is not Mickey, but ‘Farfour’, a character from a Palestinian TV program for children on the Hamas-sponsored Al-Aqsa network. As co-host of the show, Farfour espoused jihad and martyrdom – before his simulated execution by an ‘Israeli assassin’ in the final episode of 2007. Williams has mounted Peng’s work atop a pile of rubble, conjuring up images of destruction, or perhaps funerary cairns.

Above Farfour, mounted on scaffolding across the back wall of the space, is the altogether more serene ‘One Hundred Years of Repose’ (2011), by Chinese artist Yu Hong. Evoking the shape and colour palette of a 15th century altarpiece by the Dutch Van Eyck brothers, Yu instead depicts Chinese citizens in various states of somnolence. ‘Sleeping workers’ are such a fact of everyday life in China that there are blogs and articles devoted to the phenomenon. The title of Yu’s work references a propagandist Cantonese song about the re-awakening of China as a nation – though the artist is skeptical: “There is no doubt the economy is roaring, but for me, China is still asleep.”

Ritual Spirit features works by Peng Hung-Chih, Yu Hong, Hou Chun-Ming, Tianzhou Chen, Zong Ning, Luxury Logico, Xu Qu, Gade, Jun T Lai, Zheng Guogu, Xu Bing, Ni Youyu, Geng Xue, Xu Zhen, Chen Yu-Lin, Chen Yu-Ting, Ouyang Chan, Cheng Ran and Item Idem, Xiao Hang, and Hsieh Gao-Yuan.


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