Hopeless Lands, 2008

Liu Wei

Biennial, Commissions & Productions, Collection

Hopeless Lands, 2008
Video Installation
Installation view at Sharjah Contemporary Arab Art Museum
Commissioned and produced by Sharjah Art Foundation

In Hopeless Lands, filmed in an area close to Liu Wei’s studio on the outskirts of Beijing, the artist documents the ‘new work’ of local farmers who have been forced to comb through suburban domestic refuse everyday in exchange for meager compensation to supplement their falling agricultural income. As a consequence of Beijing’s rapid economic development, the former rural and farming areas surrounding the city have suffered from relentless urban sprawl. Farmlands have been lost to this expansion, and fields have been replaced by mountains of garbage and waste from the suburban areas.

Through this harrowing film, Wei challenges mainstream media and governments’ celebration of urban development and the prosperity with which it is associated. He illuminates the ugly ‘backyard’ hidden behind Beijing’s modern, appealing and affluent façade, and the overlooked consequences of the urbanisation process.

As an artist, Wei is interested in the value placed on wealth and social class within modern Chinese society. His work explores the distorted values that the pursuit of ‘market economy dreams’ has cultivated, and the effect that the destruction of nature and the construction of urban cityscapes has had on the texture of individuals’ lives and subjectivities. For Wei, Beijing is a city of desire, a city of greed, and a city of tragedy.