Hollow Garden: Chen Dandizi

28 April - 15 Juli 2023

Hua International is pleased to present Hollow Garden, Chen Dandizi’s first solo exhibition in Europe. One of the most celebrated young artists working in China today, Dandizi’s use of video, installation, photography, and literature intertwine to illuminate intimate, fleeting insights into natural and manmade landscapes and what they reveal about larger social structures and the individual psyche. Drawing upon motifs from the natural world to create narrative and emotional bridges to our own hybrid realities, Dandizi’s approach finds depth through slowness and directing focused attention towards what would otherwise be overlooked.


Hollow Garden premieres new video, sculpture, and installation that explore the subtle, complex nexus of relations that bind the so-called natural world and the built environment and thereby inform our senses of “wildness” and “home.” A central work in the exhibition is the three-channel video installation Sixty Seconds in Wonderland Park. Set in the artificial wilderness of a lush urban park in the south of China, the installation captures onlookers as they wait for the spray of mist and fog generated by an artificial pond every afternoon. This meditative dreamscape reflects on the sense of refuge such “fake” places offer amidst an urban landscape and complicates binaries like the real and artificial or natural- and built environment. Dandizi describes "wilderness" as a call for freedom from afar, abstract, seductive, maniacal. The multi-media series The Fantasy of New World Don Quixote, which comprises photography, painting, and letters addressed to the “ingenious gentleman,”transposes Quixote’s iconic adventures in the wilderness into a contemporary context, exploring the often-invisible border between illusion and reality. Her series The South explores how geographical borders function as spaces of projection and fantasy. Born in Southern China, Dandizi was compelled by how most countries mark a distinction between the northern and southern parts of their territory, claiming that “between each pair of them, there exists an invisible boundary which looks like all the cities of Calvino. They are all about ideas. The more elusive they are, the more mysterious they become.” The sculpture A Perplexed Person depicts a serpentine tangle of metal tubing with nodes featuring text that evokes the inner monologue of uncertain, self-contradictory, and indefinite reflections. Its looping structure forms a visual manifestation of circuitous thoughts and mental digressions. The exhibition’s title work, a sculpture entitled Hollow Garden, depicts plant life growing within a dwelling. The plant is squeezed, deformed, shrunken, and gradually disappears within the structure, becoming a huddle of impotence. Dandizi conceives of the door to this structure as a delicate boundary between fantasy and reality and the building’s empty center as a space of both isolation and possibility. 


Chen Dandizi’s works in Hollow Garden poetically delve into the emotional layers of architecture and landscape, examining their influence on interpersonal relationships; the relationship between animals, plants, humans, and the built environment; and the entanglement of our desires and imagination with our actual lived experience. Her reflections on these subjects emerge from the specifically Chinese perspective of encountering pandemic-related lockdowns and isolation for a much longer duration than in other places around the world, yet through the reflections on fundamental notions of the self and its environment that this period sparked comes a recognition of precarity as an elemental state of contemporary life, and an exploration of how, as anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing notes, unpredictable encounters and the condition of being vulnerable not only has the capacity to transform, but also to remake us.  

Photo by Timo Ohler, courtesy of the artist and Hua International, Exhibition Designed by Krista Xueying Yu.