Li Ran
Pretty knowledge, 2012
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
22.10.14 – 05.02.15

Li Ran tests assumptions of national character and cultural cliché through his installations and carefully crafted video performance works. The two-monitor video installation Pretty Knowledge (2012) responds to an Internet clip of a French seer circa 1980 predicting – with remarkable prescience – major events to take place before 2012. The actual seer is shown on one monitor; on the other, Li Ran re-enacts the original clip, mimicking clothing, intonation and body language.

Past, present and future are integrated and compared without evident development. Viewers must judge the truthfulness of the original video through its later remake and the passage of time.
—PG

Li Ran, Pretty Knowledge, 2012, two-channel video installation with sound, 6:27 minutes (Courtesy of the New Century Art Foundation Founder Wang Bing and the artist)
Li Ran, Pretty Knowledge, 2012, two-channel video installation with sound, 6:27 minutes (Courtesy of the New Century Art Foundation Founder Wang Bing and the artist)
Before Indulgence, After Freedom, 2013
Fonderie Darling
09.10.14 – 07.12.14

In Before Indulgence, After Freedom (2013), a roving, hand-held camera records lingering close-ups of young men talking of life and art, a rambling and fragmented conversation that suggests the sequence of confession, repentance, retrospection, declaration and deduction that goes into creating an artwork. Mismatched chairs, microphones, light stands and cables foreground the casual studio environment.

The title of the piece describes the young men’s situation in Beijing today – after freedom but before indulgence – where money talks and political connections are crucial. Chinese politics and living standards are neither easy nor fair. Young and educated, they speak of Nietzsche, Hegel and Heidegger as everyday living characters. But a romantic strain also appears: swans in love, natural timidity and the beloved woman. Still young, they seek to self-actualize while confronting a future without evident answers, always remembering, “A single slip can cause a lasting sorrow.”

As curator Weng Zhijuan noted in discussing a staged “interview” work by Li from 2011, all direct forms of resistance in contemporary society are transformed into rational forms of dialogue, a point of view exemplified in the metaphor of Li’s installation. Before Indulgence, After Freedom continues this notion, showing dialogue itself as a complex and arduous game of high stakes, where real communication between people is impossible.
—PG

Li Ran, Before Indulgence, After Freedom, 2013, HD video, colour, sound, 15:50 minutes (courtesy of the artist and Aike-Dellarco Gallery, Shanghai)
Li Ran, Before Indulgence, After Freedom, 2013, HD video, colour, sound, 15:50 minutes (courtesy of the artist and Aike-Dellarco Gallery, Shanghai)
Biography

Born in Hubei, China, in 1986, Li Ran is a visual artist who currently lives and works in Beijing. He uses a variety of media, including video, performance, painting, installation and writing, to investigate how art has been produced and framed by modern history. Through performative narrative, reproduction, mimicry and satire, he blurs the lines of art historical truth and questions how its dominant narratives have been normalized and uncritically absorbed by art viewers. By introducing a crucial element of doubt, he aims to expose how history itself is constructed.

A graduate of the Oil Painting Department of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Li is both the founder of the Company project and a participant. He has exhibited at the basis voor actuele kunst (BAK), Utrecht, Netherlands; Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), Houston; The Jewish Museum, New York; CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen and Shanghai (2012); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013); Cafa Museum, Beijing (2012); and other venues. His works have also been featured in the 2nd CAFAM Biennial, Beijing (2014), 4th Former West Project (2013), 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012) and 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale (2012). Li Ran is represented by Aike-dellarco Gallery, Shanghai.