〈Salvation Mountain〉, 2018, single channel video installation, color, stereo. 22min08sec, Courtesy of the artist
The Stone Player
The coast of California is blessed with a pleasant climate and comfortable living conditions; however, it also has the largest homeless population in the US. The video shows Liu Yu’s encounter with a homeless person near the sea of Santa Monica. The man places multiple stones and objects on the mat and rearranges them repeatedly, hoping that the stones would provide guidance for him to find his mother. The unusual behavior seems to imbue the ordinary objects with a transcendent quality. This inspired Liu Yu to ask: how and why do humans give value to minerals? This is a question which led her to a reconsideration of the history of gold mining in the United States, using the homeless person’s belief in stones as an analogy for humanity’s faith in minerals, and hinting at the common origins of both this belief and this faith in a dislocation from reality. This encounter epitomizes the artist’s experience of her time in the West Coast of the United States and is seed of Liu’s other work, Salvation Mountain, also shown in this exhibition.
Like The Stone Player, Salvation Mountain also takes as its starting points the US gold mining history, the social status of gold, and the mythical tropes surrounding the exploration of virgin lands and how humans have constructed their worlds and ideologies in relation to to the mineral world. This work takes as its starting point a question: In the age of dominant capitalism and its “economic trap”, is poverty the only way to achieve absolute freedom? The video shows three “actors” from different spaces and times (the pioneer, the vagabond, and a drone) engaging in conversation in front of a campfire. The dialogue conveys how human values are attached to the abstract concepts of digging and accumulating, then proceeds to the contemporary production of virtual currencies. The artist believes that the human imagination of value has remained unchanged through these transformations — from digging minerals to producing waste, the human obsession with objects has resulted in our current moment of chaos and insanity.
About the Artist
Born in 1985. Currently she lives and works in Taipei. Liu Yu’s creative career began in 2014 and has since developed a series of methods of field documentation. Starting from a human perspective, changes in space attributes, and the fluid identity of objects within systems, Liu portrays the trajectory of human evolution. Liu developed a series of works based on ethnicity hidden underneath social constructs in her works. The existence of these ethnicities can always correspond to the society of the time or its historical structure, allowing a blurred reorganization of familiar, everyday systems, and scientific methods. The works reference many prototypes of image vocabulary. The approaches including text publication, documentary images that imitate films, and the collection of vast amounts of on-site field research and reference materials, have encouraged she to explore the possibilities of rearranging these languages, integrating the fragments of spaces, histories, images, and narratives by connecting materials and adding new information.