New York City, NY
Cheng Ran (b. 1981, Inner Mongolia, China) is one of the most promising Chinese artists of his generation. Since 2005, Cheng has been producing film and video works that draw widely from both Western and Chinese literature, poetry, cinema, and visual culture, fabricating new narratives that combine myths and historical events.
The exhibition borrows its title from what is widely considered China’s first modern short story, written by Lu Xun in 1918. Just as Lu Xun’s story comprises first-person narratives of a character at the margins of society who gradually turns mad, Cheng’s fifteen new videos take the form of diaristic vignettes that reveal a larger assessment of a foreign place through the eyes of an outsider. As a first-time visitor to the United States, Cheng approaches New York already familiar with iconic and cinematic images of the city, simultaneously intending to find and capture what is typically excluded from such views.
Cheng’s earliest works, shot entirely in the confines of his apartment, attempted to make compelling the ordinary and unspectacular aspects of his immediate environment. Inspired by filmmakers such as Werner Herzog, Jim Jarmusch, and Béla Tarr, Cheng’s subsequent films and videos often registered his curiosity as he observed the overlooked and incongruous aspects of everyday life and chronicled his interactions with remote and historic sites. His new multi-video work, Diary of a Madman (2016), includes imagery from his early morning explorations of New York City streets, a trip to the Staten Island Bay, and a visit to an abandoned psychiatric hospital on Long Island, exposing his sense of estrangement amid his encounters with uncelebrated and obscure facets of the city.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.