3. Cheng Xinhao
Presented by Tabula Rasa Gallery | FR09
Cheng Xinhao’s essay film “March of the Elephants” (2022) is the first work realised in his latest research series “Tales about the South of Clouds” initiated in 2021, in which the artist traces Yunnan’s oral literary traditions and its accompanying physical manifestation by immersing himself into specific fields and encounters. The work “March of the Elephants” discusses the historic movements and social symbols of elephants in along the Langcang Rivers in Yunnan, China (bordering Myanmar)”. Documenting the movements of elephants in and out of their natural habitats, the film reveals the construction of contemporary reality rooted in ancient legend and political discourse.
“Yunnan is a mountainous inland region on the southwest border of China. Its altitude is high in the north and low in the south. It borders Tibet and Sichuan in the north, Guizhou and Guangxi in the east, and three Southeast Asian countries, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, in the west and south. In ancient China, Yunnan has long stood in the middle between the frontier and the foreign land of the central dynasties. It was the scene of the Jimi system from the Yuan dynasty onwards, and was eventually incorporated into the clear map of the central government through continuous migration and bureaucratization of native officers over the following centuries. Such diverse geographical and historical spaces shaped the diverse cultures and people of the area. These people generally have their own oral literary traditions. Between settlement and mobility, between certainty and ambiguity, they continue to create their own tales, and through these tales, they create new spaces of identity and practice.
The Lancang River basin is the traditional habitat of the Asian elephant, and in the Dai language, ‘Lancang’ originally means ‘million elephants’. Because of their size, elephants have repeatedly been given symbols that transcend their own. And these symbols are layered on top of each other, traveling through time and in turn obscuring the elephants themselves. Through the encounter between elephants and external in different historical contexts, the video March of the Elephants (象=image/elephant, 征=represent/march, while 象征 means symbol, and also means ‘march of the elephants’) attempts to look back at the entanglement between things and discourses, and how together they traverse history to construct new realities.” (Xinhao Cheng)
Courtesy of the artist and Tabula Rasa Gallery