Living in Heaven

Translate :Luis Siva

Living in Heaven – Half-Field Land Development and Real Estate Expo – Cai Guo-jie Solo Exhibition

Text: Lu Zhengyuan artist, curator. Teacher of Central Academy of Fine Arts, deputy director of Installation Art Committee of China Urban Sculptor Association, member of Chinese Sculpture Society.

Maps, proposals, charts, building models, a virtual island… upon entering the exhibition hall one wonders whether this is an art exhibition or a real estate sales pitch. Where is the artist? Where are the works? Everything here, however, constitutes a especial site carefully constructed by the artist, one that lies somewhere between reality and fiction. It represents the most tangible reality, but also an escape from it. Here, the artist is not displaying his art in a conventional manner, but he’s rather playing with the rules of capital. Through subverting the conventional definition of an art exhibition, he expects every visitor to discover the ambiguous transactional manipulations behind ‘having a comfort home’.

The first exhibition hall, Beautiful Scenery, displays maps of Macao’s New Eight Scenic Spots. It is also the function venue for property sales seminar and academic seminar, featuring suggestion boxes to collect opinions on the urban planning of different districts. The second hall, Land Inventory, explores future land developments, presents developers’ ideas on land development and future planning models, as well as development proposals for a “new island” in Macao. The third hall, Transaction Done, is where the actual real estate expo takes place, inviting property developers for on-site promotions and the media for coverage, to create a bustling scene of property dealings. The fourth exhibition hall, Extracts, situates the Ban-tian Project Office, presenting extracted documents from the artist’s previous art projects and it’s where the Ban-tian Project briefing is held. 

Population explosion and economic prosperity created a greater demand for home buying, which in turn has fostered robust development in real estate business. Property projects are now offering more livability, environmental protection, high tech elements and higher quality, trying to create the ‘perfect dream home’ sought by people in pursuit of a beautiful life. On the minus side, the mortgage pressure faced by most, if not all, means heavier financial burden and struggle in life. In order to ‘Live in Heaven’ as promised by the developers, we have to live with financial burden, overwhelmed by anxiety.

And why all this? For the personal aim of having a “home” – a basic human need – or the consumerism fuelled by modern society, or the mirage of material possessions?

Is home-buying an intrinsic act of personal demand, or is it imposed on us by socioeconomic factors? These are the issues behind the vigorous real estate sales market, and this exhibition invites every viewer to develop his/her own answers, so as to understand the acute point behind rationality and reflect on whether material things can bring us a peaceful home for the soul.

The artist does not avoid the crucial issues of today, nor confronts the pressures on life resulting from urban development, or even try to use rules to combat rules. By aptly

exercising the right of using temporarily the exhibition site and leasing it to the developers, he just subverts power relations, creating a space intermingling art and property deals. In doing so, the artist opens a gap in the cold-hearted market rules allowing the audience and himself to escape albeit briefly from the overpowering capital. 

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