Gordon Cheung: Death by a Thousand Cuts
18 January – 23 March 2008
Gordon Cheung’s first solo exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Death by a Thousand Cuts, sees the artist continuing his interrogation of power structures and belief systems, and our obedience to them. Cheung’s paintings capture the hallucinations between the virtual and actual realities of a globalised world oscillating between Utopia and Dystopia. Spray paint, oil, acrylics, pastels, stock listings and ink collide in his works to form epic techno-sublime vistas.
Featuring newly commissioned works, Death by a Thousand Cuts responds to the rise of China as potentially the next superpower, its affect on the world order and how their socialism is mutating into socialist capitalism. Cheung captures a sense of these issues and formulates his response by working with Chinese propaganda and acrobatic images converged with ideas of zombie horror B movies.
The exhibition title is a dark playful reference to the cut/pastetechniques Cheung employs to create his post-apocalyptic landscapes. The title also references ‘slow slicing’ or língchí, a form of execution used in China from roughly 900 AD to its abolition in 1905. A torturous practice, the method of execution has become a fixture in the image of China among some Westerners. Some modern writers suggest that exaggerated retellings of língchí have led to it becoming known as the sensationalistic ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and betray mistranslation, cultural differences, racism and other factors. Nowadays the phrase is used metaphorically to describe the gradual or incremental destruction of something, such as an institution, program or policy by repeated minor attacks or in business management to describe a product or idea that is damaged or destroyed by too many minor changes.