“Red River”, a multi-media installation, solo exhibition at Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 2008
The following text is taken from the essay “Toward The New Frontier” by Petra Watson (the curator of this exhibition).
“Gu Xiong’s four-channel video installation and photographs exhibited in Red River depict three rivers coming together as a spatial metaphor for globalization; the concept of flow within this transformative landscape defies any absolute boundaries, either physical or psychological. The river is brought forward to represent place and to give spatial interpretation to global fluidity addressing economic, political, social, and cultural change in a transnational mobile world.
Rivers communicate in ways that are constantly indeterminate. Fluidity defies stability, and the river no longer draws from any immutable continuity with nature; the river is now entangled with culture. This thematic of mobility encountered as a journey and taken up by river views is the central encounter or passage through the exhibition.
Panoramic photographs depict three rivers: Winnipeg’s Red River; the Qingxi River near Chongqing, China; and the Rhine River as it runs through Koblenz in Germany, Basel in Switzerland, and finally the port city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where it empties into the North Sea. The rivers conceptualize a local and global reach, enacting a form of critical engagement that spatially plots conceptualize a forum where hybridization occurs. The three rivers in their direct and expansionary metaphorical flow of information (media and digital), people (immigrants, workers, and tourists), technology (machinery, programs, and electronics), markets (trade, investment), leisure (picturesque aesthetics) and cultural exchange (high and low) are mobile landscapes and contingent histories.
To pass through this transnational landscape is to encounter a complex postmodern route of exchange, mobilizing place and seeking out representation. Hybrid conditions instil fusion and pastiche, bypassing many expectations earlier enforced by physical isolation, cultural archetypes and political doctrines. Hybridization is affiliated with potential and imaginary global settings and aspirations appropriated as a transcontinental flow or a letting go of fixed meanings. This does not mean that there no longer exists a centre and periphery of power and exploitation; rather that society and culture, their representation and styles—and by extension former restrictions and limitations—dissolve within the new world economy to become spatially interchangeable through mutation, confluence, and commingling. Consider this eclectic moment of hybridization as when two rivers flow together, or as interpreted within the artwork, the river as metaphor for the global world is where three rivers are taken as one.”
“Entwining Rivers,” acrylic on paper, 2008
This painting features three separate rivers, Rain River on top, Red River in the middle, and Yangtze River at the bottom. While these rivers do not meet on a map, they are joined by an individual’s global journey. The merging of these distant rivers represents our cultural hybridity.
Artwork included in the installation