Gorges Artwork

Chinese artists address a hydroelectric dam's meaning
April 1, 2010
Lost worlds: detail from Liu Xiaodong’s Hotbed.

Lost worlds: detail from Liu Xiaodong’s Hotbed. Courtesy Nasher Museum of Art

The Three Gorges Dam, a massive hydroelectric project on China's Yangtze River, caused widespread population displacement and altered a large amount of the landscape. The work of four contemporary Chinese artists—Liu Xiaodong, Yun-fei Ji, Zhuang Hui, and Chen Qiulin—done in response to the project makes up "Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam & Contemporary Chinese Art," an upcoming exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art.

The works that will be on view represent four major branches of contemporary Chinese art: ink painting, realist oil painting, conceptual photography, and performance and new-media art.

Since its inception in 1994, the Three Gorges Dam project has employed more than 40,000 people, while at the same time forcing more than a million people to relocate. The dam is supposed to eliminate the catastrophic floods that occur periodically along the Yangtze and to provide a source of hydroelectricity to up to a tenth of China's population. The land submerged by the dammed river served not only as the residence of a significant number of Chinese, but it also held more than 9,000 archaeological sites—8,000 of which were never explored.

The exhibition, which runs from March, 25 to July 25, is organized by the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, where it made its debut; Wu Hung, director of the Center for the Art of East Asia at Chicago, is curator.