As a child, when reading Tao Yuanming’s poem "Drinking", I could only remember its sound, yet did not distinguish the words. I always feel now that the poet has drunk wine, and built up the story of "Picking Chrysanthemum near the east fence, he leisurely enjoyed the south mountain views in the distance. The atmosphere in the mountain and the eventide were wonderful, and birds were flying back to nests in companion." Then the last line will surely be "There is a truthful meaning in this, my words are taken away by the ‘nature’s call." What is more agreeable (poetic) than drinking, seeing the scenery and then taking a leak to the nature?"
Jiang Li probably agrees with such poetry. The imagery of urine has appeared twice in his first solo exhibition at Capsule Shanghai. Firstly in the work Red Sun, it seems to tell, even if his fate might be drifting with twists and turns, he will still urinate facing the red sun at ease. Another example is the work Put It In that applies the same name as the exhibition title. The triple photography respectively illustrates the scenes before, ongoing and after the urine, and looks like Duchamp’s Fountain supplemented with the dimension of time. On the edge of the metal urinal there is a faint steaming from urinating.
Humor, irony, freedom and naughty are featured in Jiang Li’s works, sometimes even to the point of mischief. Except the consistent of interest in the exhibition, the audience would have thought it was a group show: the ten-year span of the works, coupled with the Jiang Li's almost eclectic use of materials and media, has refused over all the time to simply generalize or identify typical styles. Although this makes the curation less highlighted, and the whole exhibition a little less holistic, one of the features are made prominent is that Jiang Li do not like clichés or excessive symbolic elements.
“What is the biggest merit of art?” the curator Eleonora asked. "The same as the merit of a meal and a rain shower." Jiang Li replied like a poet. The exhibition does present some of Jiangli’s poems. Some of them are full of imagery and others are quite philosophical, as an example, "They like your educated part but I like your part uneducated." (Education). More importantly, we may be able to find his trust in intuition and everyday life (even dependence). So perhaps we might as well interpret "Put it in" as certain “interposition” (one of alternative meanings of “put in”), just as Jiang Li’s art itself is about life.
Works included in the exhibition are shower heads (pulled straight, resembling lotus with elongated necks and living in the silt but not imbrued), iPhone charging lines (also pulled straight, carrying sudden strangeness of a new hairstyle), Lamp in My Room (only to be installed lower), the Beijing haze simulated by the use of lard (Scenery out of the Window), and a family photo perhaps found in a drawer (Jiang stared at the photographer while the parents were looking to the left with mysterious gaze). Jiang Li regard these found objects as a reward for his artistic creations of life and intuition. Even sometimes, he is grateful for the "ubiquity” objects that he borrowed. He uses collected metal gardening tools, African masks, planks and rubber pipes to create art (such as the face of a goddess) that is entitled Luck.
What echoes the borrowing of found objects is the metaphysical pursuit of “truth”. In the work Death of the Liar, he puts Pinocchio's story in the context of a patriarchal society, and the ideas of lie is magnified to direct violence. In the work Two Falling People, he condensed the manifestation of "truth" to the moment of death.
Published in Timeout Shanghai (February, 2018)
Translated by Artranslate