Curator: Manuela Lietti
Artist: Marike Schuurman
The Chinese notion of health is largely rooted in their distinct notion of the human body as an organic whole that mirrors the intimate connection between the outer world of nature and the inner world of the individual. Whether in biology, medicine or art, the body is regarded as an extension of the natural system, regulated by the same rules and subject to the same phenomena. This holistic approach is a central concept of Chinese culture: the unity of man and nature – tian ren he yi. Micro and macro experiences are linked: individual and world, private Self and public I. Merging with nature is necessary in order to preserve one’s physical and psychological health. This belief is embodied by efforts to bridge the dichotomy between man and environment, personal ego and public persona. Common people, especially the elderly, re-appropriate public spaces and the natural environment in a healing process for body and mind.
The works of Dutch-born Berlin-based artist Marike Schuurman featured in “InnerScapes,” in particular the videos and photos shot in Beijing in 2008, reflect this practice, offering a lens through which to interpret the desire of contemporary Chinese people to integrate their lives in the natural order for their physical and mental health. Schuurman’s series of photographs and videos – shot in public parks, secluded woods hidden within the capital, green spots along the streets and other ordinary public spaces – portrays common people practicing taiqi, exercising and keeping fit by using what nature provides: tree branches, tree trunks, small patches of green. These natural elements function as props, helping people feel their body as alive and responsive. They help to reinvigorate it and reconnect one’s personal rhythm with the macro rhythm of nature. “InnerScapes” presents the kind of fitness equipment that can be found in Beijing’s public parks, streets, and other public spaces not necessarily conceived for fitness activities. With this equipment, “exercise stations” are created throughout the city. These provide not only an opportunity to exercise for those who cannot do so in natural spaces similar to those in Schuurman’s photographs and videos, but also an ideal platform that brings together the young and the old, preserving a sense of “neighborhood feeling of fellowship” that otherwise would be lost in the menacing concrete cityscape.
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The Departure Point of InnerScapes: Health nurturing and health preserving are central concepts of Chinese culture, perhaps the only notions that have been able to resist and survive the attacks of time, of high-speed development, and of class struggle. No…READ MORE AND COMMENT