Hold your gaze on your own time, firmly.
If you see the time, what do you actually see?
Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben writes that “The contemporary is he who firmly holds his gaze on his own time so as to perceive not its light but rather its darkness. All eras, for those who experience contemporariness, are obscure.” Ran Zhou’s exhibition The Diary of Destroying a Map pries into her attempt to see this obscurity of the present through the gap between two incomplete cultures, histories and self-resistance.
Beginning from the neurophysiology of vision, we find ourselves in a place deprived of light or when we close our eyes, we see “darkness.” Neurophysiologists tell us that the absence of light activates a series of peripheral cells in the retina called “off-cells.” When activated, these cells produce the particular kind of vision that we call darkness. Darkness is not, therefore, the simple absence of light, or nonvision, but instead, the result of our own retina. In this way, for the darkness of contemporariness, that to perceive this darkness is not a form of inertia or of passivity. Rather, it implies an activity and a singular ability. This ability amounts to a neutralization of the lights that come from the epoch in order to discover its obscurity, its special darkness, which is actually not separable from the lights.
As one of those who do not allow themselves to be blinded by the lights of the mainstream, Ran Zhou integrates her thoughts of darkness into her art to get a glimpse of the shadows in the lights, of the intimate obscurity. A diary is an unfathomable book of a life never lived, the temporal order of events. It feeds off time and yet it also withdraws from it, opening it up to a life never lived. The exhibition title, The Diary of Destroying a Map, which is the same title of a featured installation in the exhibition, highlights the position of the artist and her artwork, which blurs the boundary between past and present, individual and collective. Starting from narrating the existence of culture shock, rethinking the darkness of mainstream recognition, Ran’s art points to many Chinese social topics and city memories, which comes from her strong awareness struggling between Eastern and Western culture. Getting rid of the country-specific restriction and traditional concept, Ran’s art creates a subtle space located at crevices between the concept of contemporariness of culture and individual awareness within the vortex of globalization.
Ran Zhou is a visual artist based in Vancouver British Columbia, originally from China. For her who went through the Chinese education system, art is the way to avoid being swallowed in the apparatus of state and have her own voice being heard. Through recent years, her practice has shifted from drawing and painting to more experimental pieces of installation, videos, and performance. Ran is pursuing her double honours BFA degree of Visual Arts and Art History at the University of British Columbia.