Testimony for the Future at BMCA / Nanjing

Testimony for the Future / Curated by Zhu Zhu

Artists: Gao Lei & Li Nu

2024.3.30 - 2024.6.30

Beiqiu Museum of Contemporary Art (BMCA)

Catherine Park, No.1 Beijing East Road, Nanjing


The concept of the exhibition is inspired by the difference between the space of Beiqiu Museum of Contemporary Art and that of the “White Box”. As an artistic space transformed from an air-raid shelter, the art museum retains the previous structural characteristics and sense of historical relics as well as its geographic environment that is inseparable from the Jilongshan Mountain. The space of the "air-raid shelter" is treated as a place where Gao Lei and Li Nu store and exchange their works. One day, far in the future, upon looking back, the door of the “shelter” would be opened, displaying testimony for the collective memory and reflection of the two intersecting individual lives as well as of the present era.

In the specific structural arrangement of the exhibition, works of the two artists are organically grouped together to form direct thematic dialogues, superimposed visual tensions, or understandable interconnections, weaving the two independent forms of individual creations into a bare thread in the tunnel of time and space. In terms of their respective methodologies, Gao Lei's expression has the constant appearance of rational thinking, while Li Nu constantly shifts between lightness and heaviness, silence and explosion. Their works are both witnesses to reality and metaphysical inquiries. Compared with the local conceptual artists of the previous generation, Gao Lei and Li Nu avoid excessively-symbolic production and respond to the common circumstances by focusing more on art itself.


Gao Lei’s art practice spans multiple media, including installation, sculpture, photography, and painting. Gao often adopts everyday objects and “standardized” industrial products as the essential component, whose works are manipulated through synthetic or abstract regulatory forms, in which the functions, properties, and meanings are tampered with or added through blurring transformation. Thus, they become a scale or model for measuring various domains such as the body, power, consumption, and religion. Through precise material testing and vectorization of graphics, Gao’s works, along with the objects they confront and the questions raised, alternate between spatial and conceptual dimensions, allowing the viewer to re-examine and remeasure our inherent boundaries with the world using a standard other than that of experience.

Li Nu graduated with an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art. He is a winner of RBS (Royal British Society of Sculptors) Bursary Awards 2015, and as a member of RBS, lives and works in Beijing. Li Nu’s practice is rooted in everyday life. He subverts the perceived boundaries between documentary and fiction, representation and abstraction to explore and achieve a poetic language in art. Through capturing the details of everyday life, he aims to reflect the individual’s mood swings and the menials state of the population in the evolution of macro-society. The seemingly unpromising materials of everyday life are transformed into something metaphorical, poignant, humorous, poetic, and dramatic, challenging us to question our received experiences about life and see the world afresh. The concept that he wants to express is never what you have seen. It is always wandering between void and solid.