Zhenchen Liu’s video Under Construction takes the spectator on a journey through the ruins of a once elegant traditional district in Shanghai. Individual frames are animated in sequences in such a way that the camera seems to hover above the remains of the city and float unimpeded through walls and windows. Ghostly figures appear on heaps of rubble that were once densely inhabited housing, reminding us that not everyone has disappeared and that the ruins are still full of the life of their evicted inhabitants. In short documentary-style sequences, Liu interrupts the search through the city and gives the district’s inhabitants a chance to speak, thus plunging us suddenly into reality. A old woman tells us that she is about to become homeless because she does not have the money demanded by the investors to move her. The same fate awaits a young man, again unable to find the money and beaten up by the investors’ thugs. Liu’s video provides shocking documentation of the whirlwind changes taking place in the Chinese metropolises under the pressure of globalization and the need to undertake a process of total modernization, leaving all tradition behind.
After Shanghai Shanghai (2006), Under Construction is the second work produced by the artist in collaboration with the renowned Le Fresnoy studio of contemporary art. Together with Shanghai Express (2005), these works form a trilogy in which Liu observes the changes brought about by globalization in his city from different viewpoints. To this end, he uses documentary material subjected to a process of estrangement through acceleration of the images, digital processing and computerized animation. Alongside the presumably objective description of the documentary, the artist thus opens up another narrative plane of an unmistakeably subjective nature, using these images to tell a different story and bringing photography, video and computerized animation together in a new synthesis. The use of 3D gives the spectator the impression of being inside the images together with the camera.
Zhenchen Liu (Shanghai, 1976) has been awarded numerous prizes for Under Construction at major international festivals, including the prize for best short film at the Sao Paulo Film Festival and the Prix Studio Collecteur of Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains. Works by the artist have been shown at the Locarno Festival, Rencontres Internationales at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin and Transmediale Berlin 2008. Zhenchen Liu lives and works in France and China.