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Zhang Dali, Chinese Offspring, 2005, 30 life size resin figures seen in situ at White Rabbit Gallery’s Vile Bodies exhibition
Credit: White Rabbit Gallery/Instagram

It’s a spectacular sight. Thirty life size casts suspended from a height of four storeys. Each one is ‘numbered, branded and trussed like carcasses in a slaughterhouse’ – their faces and naked bodies suspended in a state that’s neither explicitly anguished or at rest but somewhere unnervingly liminal, like well-lit limbo.

Zhang Dali’s arresting installation Chinese Offspring, a representation of the millions of rural Chinese workers who migrate to the country’s dense urban centres each year in search of a better life only to find themselves at the mercy of the state and its archaic systems, is the first of the many disarming artworks from 22 artists that comprise
A detail from Li Shan, Recombinant, 2002-06, 50 photographs on light boxes
Credit: Courtesy of White Rabbit Gallery/Facebook

That dystopian theme plays out in works like Li Shan’s Recombitant, where an entire wall of lurid photographs of insects and amphibians is imbued with vaguely sinister undertones. At first appearing innocuous, the hybrid subjects of Recombitant quickly reveal themselves to be a melange of the artist’s own body parts – skin and hair appearing where once eyes, wings and abdomens were.

It’s revisited again in the Taiwanese group Luxury Logico’s spectacular 300kg, eight-metre-long mechanic sculpture Wandering, which presents as something of a hybrid between a dragon, a centipede, and a Matrix-level take on a dragon boat that might be used to traverse deep space. As one of two works on the gallery’s mirrored top floor, it’s utterly mesmerising.

In other works, like Cang Xin’s fascinating wooden sculptures Exotic Flowers and Rare Herbs, art is likened to a form of the artist’s native Mongolian shamanism, practitioners of which claim they can shape-shift and take the form of animals and birds. The finished sculptures are equally as transformative.

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Pictured in the foreground, Cang Xin’s Exotic Flowers and Rare Herbs, wood, various dimensions
Credit: Courtesy of White Rabbit Gallery/Facebook

And in Cheng Dapeng’s installation Wonderful City (see top of page), the artist and practicing architect makes a powerful statement against the dehumanising effect of urbanisation and life of contemporary cities through creating one of his own out of 3D printed models set atop a white lightbox, at the centre of which is a white, radiant heart.

The city itself is overrun with monsters, each one an ornate and hyperreal maquette that, at times, is as pornographic as it is apocalyptic. That the work is rendered a luminescent white makes it both hard to take in and impossible to look away from. Like the remainder of the works in Vile Bodies, it’s an entirely moving and visceral experience – one that you’d do well to seek out before it closes this coming Sunday, February 5. 

You can find out more information here.

Tile image: Cheng Dapeng, Wonderful City, 2011-12, 3D prints, lightbox, 80 x 960 x 200 cm
Cover image: Shot on iPhone

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