Zhan Wang: “My Personal Universe”

My Personal Universe, Zhan Wang
My Personal Universe, Zhan Wang

If you could have a superpower, what would it be? For me, I always wish to be able to stop time, when all my surroundings would freeze and only I could move. And this wish periodically gets stronger when it is the last minute before my exams or before due dates of my papers. Just kidding. Nonetheless, freezing time is definitely a cool superpower to have. As you can expect, just like my other childhood fantasies, the existence of superpowers also got denied by my science teachers back in primary school as I grew. However, an exhibition that I saw in 2012 by the Chinese sculptor, Zhan Wang, made my wish come true by showing the freezing moment of the explosion of a rock.

The exhibition was called “My Personal Universe” and it was held in Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. When I entered the gallery, I was surprised to find myself surrounded by floating and shimmering rock fragments, which were hung from invisible wires. On the ceiling, the ground, and the four walls in the gallery, there were six large screens showing video-clips of the explosion from six different angles. I felt like entering a space where time stopped; however, the videos continuously played in super-slow-motion on the screens kept me aware of what was happening around me.

According to the artist, by suspending rock fragments throughout the gallery, he was trying to recreate the birth of the universe. The explosion reminds people of the big bang theory. To do this, the artist did record the explosion of a boulder on-site from multiple angles. After that, he brought all the fragments back to his studio and made stainless steel replicas of these fragments. He installed these replicas in the gallery in a way that each fragments moved along its own trajectory, and finally formed this fascinating scene of the explosion.

I was amazed by the idea of recreating the start of the universe, and the beauty of the destruction itself. I felt as if I was experiencing the explosion, and I could imagine the tension between all the rock fragments and me. They were moving toward me. They were about to smash my face. However they stopped before they got too close, leaving me standing in the middle of the rocks adrift in the space and marveling at the beauty of this apocalyptic moment.

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