Wonderful City

Cheng Dapeng


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resin 3D prints, lightbox
80 x 960 x 200 cm
‘Beijing is my home city, capital of six dynasties, yet what ought to be a being of Samsāra turns out to be a rebirth of monstrousness.’

As a successful architect, who sometimes profits from what he calls ‘monster buildings’, Cheng Dapeng knows that he, too, bears some responsibility for this transformation of the Chinese urban environment. His response, as an artist, is Wonderful City (2011 – 2012), a vast 9.6-metre-long lightbox field of strange hybrid creatures that clamber and swarm over a milky white metropolis of separate towers, some engaged in a disturbing variety of carnal couplings, others suspended precariously as if about to fall. Amphibians and insects are hybridised with human body parts: arms are thrust into the air, legs kick wildly, wings flutter, tails swish. The work suggests a constant jittery energy: a pristine architect’s model has come anarchically alive. Produced by the magic of 3D printing, Cheng’s creatures perch atop city buildings like Godzilla, lit from below and glowing as if irradiated. The artist says these mutants are like ‘yaoguai’ – monster ghosts or demonic spirits – resulting from extreme disturbances of the natural order and the human psyche.
In 2011, when Cheng commenced Wonderful City, the technology of 3D printing was in its infancy, and the work developed over two years of study, experimentation, and construction. Assisted by a team, Cheng Dapeng transformed his own computer-generated 3D drawings into three hundred and eighty-five resin sculptures of different shapes and sizes. Like a nightmarish transformation of the architectural models presented to potential investors by developers, Wonderful City is a bitter satire, a dystopian vision of the future. The original drawings used to design the installation emerged from Cheng Dapeng’s paintings, in which human and animal forms merge with architectural structures to create dark fairy tales. Reminiscent of the multitudinous monsters and ghosts of Chinese folk tales, the creatures in their three dimensional final form exude a grotesque sexual energy that recalls the creatures of Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Naked white limbs flail, scaled bodies writhe, and tentacles protrude from buildings in a syncopated rhythm of amphibious wrigglings, scratching claws, and the frantic beating of exposed hearts.
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