Destructive Narratives

IMG_9904Destructive Narratives installation view. Image © Yannis Lo Ching Yan

Landing Space, Chelsea College of Arts, November 2019
Curated by: Sara Ann Barber, Yige Hu, Yannis Lo, Hao Long, Conor Smyth, Jiachuan Wang, Yi Wang, Zhe Wu, Qianjing Yuan – MA Curating & Collections 2019/20

The Landing Space serves primarily as a fire refuge point and it is from this design that the idea of the destructive power of fire derives. It has lead to the broader theme of ‘destruction’ throughout the exhibition, especially surrounding the three themes of the destruction of one’s environment, a physical space and self. Destructive Narratives brings together a group of artists who have explored, experimented with and observed destructive qualities in the context of relationships, society, nature, self-examination, and the ultimate questions of existence. The warping of the original function of the fire refuge point changes the purpose of the space to become an exhibition site.

Exploring the philosophical idea of Saṃsāra within the Buddhist religion has led the curators of the exhibition on the path of considering ‘destruction’ in a wider context of the ‘cycle of life, death and rebirth’ and the wandering of the soul from body to body. Saṃsārais an Eastern religious doctrine, believing that there will be an afterlife for all living beings, and that the continuation of life is based on perpetual reincarnation. The idea of the destruction or dismantling of an entity ultimately leading to a process of revival, producing a new form or new life, is a central theme of the exhibition. Destructive Narrativesaims to meditate on how contemporary artists continue and respond to this ancient concept.


Edolia Stroud is a creative director and photographer from Brooklyn, New York, USA. Searching for Oxygen was a body of work made about the traumatic event of her childhood home burning down in 2001. Stroud recreated this horrific experience through the eyes and recollection of her mother. These images represent vividly the terrifying moments during which took place during the fire. “These images depict specific moments of the fight against the flames.” Stroud explains.

Jennifer Siemsen, a New York Film Academy graduate, who produced her photo series Fire On The Mountain about the 2018 wildfires originated in southern California, USA. The fire later spread to central California and eventually reached Yosemite National Park, where the inspiration for this work began. This body of work highlights the causes of wildfires, such as car accidents and cigarettes, along with the effects on the environment which it destroys.

Tingyi Xu is an MA Fine Art student at Chelsea who was based in Zhejiang Province, China. Reflections #2 is a site-specific commission work Xu tailored for the exhibition space. Two mirrors are installed on the fringes of the door frame to reflect an image of the fire exit signs. For Xu, mirrors create a reverse duplication of space and connect the different points in the space by the flow of the fibres. Using the mirrors the artist creates an illusion of directional control and infinite distance also forcing the audience to accept his intentional viewing angle. The large space is divided into three smaller areas with the fire exit signs reflected through the centre. The fibre as an attachment between the mirrors and the wall not only gives a visual guide to the audience but also generates an imagined link between the different exits bringing viewers’ primary attention to the room’s function as a fire refuge point while intentionally deconstructing it and forming it into an exhibition space.

Originally based in Beijing, China, Yue Yang is a current BA Fine Art student at Chelsea. This Untitled work brings new life to the expired blueberries by transforming them into an important element of the artwork. Yang attempts to bring an art piece into existence through a destructive practice: destroying to create. Having the thought to extend the life of the fruit that has passed its best before date, the artist started to examine ways to conserve materials that were considered useless and therefore to be abandoned. The artist then scratched the frozen blueberries onto the canvas changing the original role of the blueberries as food and turning them into an artistic piece.

Erin Wilson is a BA Fine Art student from Glasgow studying at Chelsea whose work Skinfocuses on the paradoxical nature of humanity and experiments with a sense of comfort and discomfort found within oneself and society. For Wilson, skin acts as the boundary which contains the emotional and psychological self from the uncomfortable pressures of society. Skin for Wilson functions as a visual representation of the physical barrier between humans’ inner (comfort) and outer (discomfort) worlds. She treated the material in a way that mirrors such a paradox, by igniting the artificial skin and soothing it with baby powder. The viewer is invited to touch the work and feel the boundary, the artist hopes that the feelings experienced by touching the work might reignite the sentimentality of being human within viewer. Similarly to the work by Yue Yang being shown in the exhibition, Wilson uses her artistic process to destroy the material, in order to create a new life and new meaning to the piece.

Kefan Zhou recently graduated from the Foundation of Central Academy of Fine Arts, China and is currently studying BA Fine Art at Chelsea. Shown in the exhibition is the photographic documentation of her performance work Wound. During the performance she experimented and examined the effects of putting needles through one’s flesh and the self-recovery process of the human skin. Zhou explains that, “(t)he needles invaded the familiar skin again and again, stimulating the nerve endings in the most intimate way, like the primal love prying. The process of intrusion was also the process of receiving, and getting familiar with each other to generate connections.” The artist sees bleeding as the crying of the flesh, which carries intense emotions of bleakness and anger. The recovery of the skin is another essential process of the work, and she regards it as a way to observe the natural process of the skin being regenerated. Zhou compares the physical wounds left on her flesh to that of the sentimental scars in one’s heart, in which she hopes both injuries will heal themselves as time goes by.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.