He Xiangyu’s The Swim – Premiere Australian Screenings

SYDNEY – Free screenings: May 25 – 28 2017.

4A Center for Contemporary Asian Art is pleased to announce the Australian premiere of He Xiangyu’s latest film, The Swim

The Swim is an art film with documentary characteristics. The artist returned to his hometown in Kuandian for three times – a poor county located by Yalu River on the China-North Korea border. Through interviewing and filming 6 veterans participating in the Korean War and 6 defectors fleeing from North Korean as well as their families, the film unveils the cruel reality hidden behind the beautiful scenery and presents the utopian fantasy projected on individuals.

This will be only the second international screening of this work (after an international premiere at the Guggenheim in February 2017).

He Xiangyu is a leading contemporary artist based between Beijing and Berlin who first garnered attention for his large-scale works, such as The Coca Cola Project and Tank Project. Xiangyu is represented by White Cube and his work is in the collections of:Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA; Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Switzerland; Pinault Collection, France; White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, Australia; Domus Collection, USA; Boros Collection, Berlin, Germany; Long Museum, Shanghai, China; Mercator Foundation, Essen, Germany; Artron Art Museum, Shenzhen, China; M WOODS Museum, Beijing, China; Sishang Museum, Beijing, China.


Director’s Statement:

On the Tomb-sweeping Day in 2015, I went back to my hometown for ancestor worship. In China, it is a day when we mourn the deceased and wish them living a happy life in the other world. My hometown is a border town where I was born and grew up. I used to know well about the neighbours and the landscape. But after leaving for years, I found the landscape that seemed familiar and everlasting before had concealed certain strange reality now. The Utopia in my carefree childhood makes me feel complicated and ambiguous, which inspires me to rediscover the place and the people’s life there.

I spent more than half a year on field trips and collected a large amount of materials. The interviewees include a dozen North Korean defectors and over twenty veterans participating in the Korean War. Their narrations unveil the realistic face of my hometown. Following my childhood memory and local people’s narrations, I started my first filming in this April along the border between China and North Korea. Later, I went back twice. During the three filming trips, the experiences of the individual interviewees, their struggle in reality and their expectation for the future were so fascinating and touching. Although have gone through the geographical and spiritual departure and return, the land that used to be so familiar is still strange to me.


About He Xiangyu (b.1986, Dandong, China.Lives and works across Beijing, China and Berlin, Germany.)

He Xiangyu’s experimental practice can be seen as both a material testing ground and conceptual laboratory that investigates diverse personal, social and political themes. Part of a generation of Chinese artists who grew up during a period of rapid urbanisation, He Xiangyu is one of the most important and influential figures in contemporary Chinese art.  He has said that “I’m seeking to adjust and guide people’s perception through the material changes within the object”, using a range of media to reflect on philosophic ideas such as the increasing materialism and obsolescence of our society as well as the effects of the institutionalisation and commercialisation of contemporary art.

He Xiangyu is represented by White Cube and has an international reputation. His solo exhibitions have been presented in London, Frankfurt, Sydney, Tokyo and Beijing. His works are included in numerous group shows, including Soil and Stones, Souls and Songs by Kadist Art Foundation, the Biennale de
Lyon, Fire and Forget: On Violence in the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, 28 Chinese in the Asian Art Museum/ San Antonia Museum of Art in San Francisco and San Antonia, Shanghai Biennale, Busan Biennale and exhibitions in many important institutions in the world.

He Xiangyu’s works have been collected by the Uli Sigg Collection (Switzerland), Rubell Family Collection (Miami, USA), Kunstmuseum Bern (Bern, Switzerland), François Pinault Collection (France), White Rabbit Gallery (Sydney, Australia), Domus Collection (New York, USA), Boros Collection (Berlin, Germany), Long Museum (Shanghai, China), Stiftung Mercator (Essen, Germany), M Woods Gallery (Beijing, China) and the Si Shang Art Museum (Beijing, China).


This is the second time 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art has presented He Xiangyu in Sydney. The Swim follows the 2012 exhibition of the Cola Project – where the artist worked with factory workers to boil thousands of litres of Cola, creating a black sludge which He used to create Song dynasty style ink paintings.

For more information about the Cola Project, click here.

Image: The Swim (2017) (still) © He Xiangyu. Courtesy the artist and White Cube.