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The Ground is Falling

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Aranya Art Center
Qinghuangdao, China

September 25, 2021 - January 6, 2022

Nothing is closer to our vision of the connection between human and non-human worlds than the cosmos today. That vision encompasses the perspectives of Russian cosmism, in which the universe resurrects and even immortalizes the past. It encompasses discussions of planetary engineering (Hansen, Bratton). And it encompasses the many feminist ecologists reconsidering the bonds and legacies of being “more than human” in the cosmic past, present, and future, building a profoundly ethical sensibility rooted in reverence. This universe, loaded with visions of eternal life, faith in engineering, and a new ethics of species, is tending toward the ultimate or extreme in multiple ways.

In a sense, we seem to have completed not only the continuous metaphysical engineering project that is “the world as a sphere” (Yuk), but also the physical civilizational expansion that has followed the curve of that sphere. Over the last half-century, we have already witnessed the overview effect, symbolized by the blue dot, and seen the full reflection that Buckminster Fuller projected onto the Earth’s spherical structure. Perhaps now we ought to consider what lies beyond the overview and the blue dot—a planetary existence that can no longer be fully described as “spherical” and can no longer be limited by a vision of what’s out there. To some extent, the “outside” could disappear at any moment.

While Blue Origin and SpaceX have driven interest in human spaceflight, and even sparked bold statements about a new Space Age, precision cosmology has explored dark matter sitting silently in the void. In the deep space narrative, the flames of rocket boosters and high-energy cosmic rays entangle the obvious and the hidden, the surface and the interior. The exhibition attempts to explore a non-vertical, topological perspective towards the universe. In her long-term projects, Xin Liu has situated herself on the boundary line between celestial objects, experiences of deep space, the cosmic ecosystem, and many other topics, as well as within continuous translations of vocabularies from multiple disciplines. Within this exhibition, Liu retains her usual working methods developed around mapping, modeling, and precision instruments, and also constructs three narrative threads that run through the exhibition space: a potato seed that was transported to the International Space Station via manned space flight, an anonymous “white stone” from the sky, and a series of satellite signals radiating between the Earth’s orbit and surface. They all seem to be in motion: the instruments are rotating, the potato is sprouting, and the fallen object is rumbling. The pieces of technology, plants, debris, soil, shadows, and humans that appear in the exhibition seem to be governed by an unspoken, overarching rule, regardless of whether this can be called “the cosmos.” This invisible, overarching energy has more primitive associations and unfolds in a spiral circumscribing the exhibition’s verticality.

Flying above the ground could mean taking an expedition, or it could imply going into exile, while falling into the Earth’s core could be a return to orbit. The one-way vertical universe is confronting an epistemological reorganization. Beyond the upper bounds of engineering and the limits of mechanics, the political, technological, and cultural power projected into space constructs another kind of deep time that extends into deep space. It forces us to reconsider everything that we have inscribed or woven: people, fragments, signals, space minerals, and various suppositions and deductions in space. The dimension and speed of deep space narratives are being gradually dissolved into more diverse, poetic, entangled, and internalized forms, which may allow cosmic engineering and cosmic metabolism to achieve henosis (oneness). What the exhibition projects is simply one version of many potential narratives; it is condensed into a specific deep space that one human body is narrating. Here, the whole world falls straight down. 

curated by Iris Long
text by Iris Long