BETWEEN ART LAB: Deng Dafei (邓大非) Project of Ruin:Barbarous Regeneration

In such a big city as Beijing we see one after another temporary ruins and areas to be demolished for reconstruction, mostly in the flexible spaces of rural-urban fringe zones, reflecting metamorphosing images of the city.

Works in Ruin  image courtesy: BETWEEN ART LAB

Without fail these areas and traces of the ruins have become part of our visual life. Amid the urbanization movement in China, it seems to be part of the historical predestination, constituting part of the modernization and joining the everyday life across generations.

Human beings demolish the fringe zones, turning them into open lots. The walls are torn down, leaving debris, covering and revealing the tiled floor. In the cracked parking lots chests and cupboards are exposed to wind and rain. All reminds us of the scenes of the dwellers’ daily life. These stuff will either diminish and disintegrate into dust due to long-time outdoor exposure or become fillings for a foundation base of a future living quarter before disintegration.

Deng Dafei  Dark Utopia 2 Video 2015:  image courtesy: BETWEEN ART LAB

Under the nationalized land policy, ruins mean a process of turning construction into land. Within the short span of their life, urban ruins become another symbol of the land.  

Video Link:

“The images I create on the ruins are intended to be a bridge joining art texts with the metamorphosing social scenes. This on-going project series about ruins started over a year ago. I choose to get my own goat by laboriously walking in the ruins, carving and rubbing, thus gradually turning images into an excuse for the heavy physical labor, which has been deeply ingrained into my physical memory. In the near future the once noisy neighborhood that has been reduced to rubbles will probably be replaced by another high-riser. While the physical part of me keeps toiling, my spiritual world ruminates these ups and downs coming along with these disillusionments. The vulnerable physical self keeps itself under the strong impact of the endless social and historical scenes. Without flexible or off-hand interaction with the audience, working in the ruins is by no means a kind of performance, When the design I prepared is transferred onto the ruins or the cracked surface of the land, it tends to be interrupted, ripped or forced to metamorphose, so full of excitement, I take advantage of this change, as I know these silent ruins are my accomplice in producing these images: as I intervene into the ruins, they in turn change my original intention.” – Deng Dafei

“Everyday life is the most vivid, concrete and material and our physical experience is so real in the life predicament, so Deng incorporates more and more on-the-spot elements in social life in an increasingly powerful and direct manner. His video “Dark Utopia”, made on-site in such a chaotic and grim scene as the urban fringe outside the fifth ring in Beijing, gives off an air of life. Those people living at the lower end of the social ladder, without effective means and channels of expression, live their like lives like quite toiling specters, with nobody caring about them or knowing their conditions. The video, with dark night as background, shows violent flames that forms images and scripts about the disadvantaged. When the fire dies out in the darkness, the sentiments of the common people running in a special social form converge with the undecipherable trend in the flame and in the sky.” – Du Xiyun

BETWEEN ART LAB Exhibition installation view image courtesy: BETWEEN ART LAB

Spiritually speaking, the ruins are undoubtedly associated with setbacks, destruction, instability, deprivation, etc. Negative spiritual energy belongs symbolically to the domain of on-going human introspection, which is the most fascinating to the artist. When he taint and transfer these “contemporary ruins” through the medium of art, the rubbings also make up a collection of interpreted historical images speaking for its own antiquity, klunkiness and confusion, like rubbings from stone carvings left from thousands of years ago. It is the combination of “frozen history” to be viewed from afar and a kind of temporary aesthetics “occupied” by art. 


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Director: Yan Yuting

ADD: Between Art lab, Huan Tie, Wu Huan No.1, Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District Beijing | P.R. China

Between Art lab, North Bund Art Zone, Yangshupu Road No.2361, Yangpu District Shanghai | P.R. China

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Contact Person: Yan Yuting
Phone: 0086-010-84200024
Country: China