Xu Tan: Questions, Soil and “Socio-Botanic”

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Xu Tan: Questions, Soil and “Socio-Botanic”, video of exhibition view


The starting off of Xu Tan’s Questions, Soil and “Socio-Botanic” is from the re-visiting of his 17-year-old work, Question 1 and the compulsive “revising” of his Social Plant and Thought Spasm (2012). The exhibition presented by Vitamin Creative Space in 2013 replicates the slides of Question 1 (1996), re-enacts the work with the same projection setting; while the act of scrutinizing of soil extends the argument to a wider public context.


From the beginning of this summer, we have been visiting some places in the Pearl River Delta region to investigate things such as how people use their land, how and what they plant, and what they eat and drink. From my point of view, the city that we live in and the rural areas and farming villages are all connected as one entity. We tend to think we understand these rural areas and farming villages, that they are part of the “known world” to us and that the things happening there can be seen or judged in the most common of ways. However, “things and issues” that are “unknown” can be found hidden in every possible corner of places like this. The relationship between the “known” and the “unknown” world is a really obscure concept in our consciousness. But through contemplation — contemplating the spots, from different angles and quietly — we can become perceptive/conscious about of an “unknown” world around us, like having invisible neighbors, and at that point the “known world” could be revealed more clearly. I describe this as an act of awareness (to become aware), a method to realize the “unknownness” in a world we think we know.

  -Xu Tan

Xu Tan might not have the intention to emphasize his discovery of an alternative comprehension of the world he made this summer, but the new aspect of reality emerges through his research; those which seem like mutually exclusive practices, scattered around the Pearl River Delta, start coming in together and weave an interlinked network – this network appears to be more thorough now – for example, the rooftop farm in Hong Kong correlates with the Guangzhou Tanka’s floating farmland; these are the folk wisdoms applied to tackle with the scarcity of farmland. When images overlap, oscillate and manifest, their semblance open up a new possibility for perception. The rocking tree floating on the river is no longer a deserted truth, it leads us to an unknown pathway which may point to a hidden metaphor.

Maybe that is the reason why Xu Tan is more intended to tackle of the semiotic deconstruction and the liberation of the relations between the reality and the consciousness, rather than restricting his research to the exposing of the interrelations between meanings. In Questions, Soil and “Socio-Botanic”, the complex linkages between thoughts and reality is concealed in the moving images he  has captured. The videos speak a kind of visual language that opens up new conversation in our consciousness linguistically, rather than conservatively serve as the ‘documentary style’ way of reinforcing the reality. They have revealed dimensions of depth in an conversation with moving images. We could realize during the encounter with the videos, the silent moments become as important as the articulation of lines, as they both deepen our apperception.


Xu Tan: Questions, Soil and “Socio-Botanic”
from 19th August – 22nd November at Vitamin Creative Space
Address: Room301, 29Hao, Heng Yi Jie, Chi Gang Xi Lu,  Guangzhou, 510300, China
Opening time: Monday to Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM
Tel: 0086-20-84296760
Email: mail@vitamincreativespace.art

Lighting sponsor: FITECH