The Logic of the Iron Cage
12 2月 2020


At the 6th Guangzhou Triennial, it presented the final work of Parallel, created by German artist Harun Farocki, who had a reflection of the evolution of computer graphics, and he had explored “two boundary conditions implicit in the construction of typical game worlds: the edge of the playable universe and the limits of interaction with computer-generated characters” — Obviously, the young artist Fu Shuai is also interested in this subject, and Fu’s easel paintings are closely associated with it. Fu is unlike Farocki who needed to employ his friend’s child to play the games, and Fu was once a gamer participated in the first-person shooter when he was a teenager. As he wrote in the self-statement for his solo exhibition in 2016:

“I was obsessed with the immersive sense perception received from such a first-person perspective, and especially I like the amazing feeling of flying to heaven when the character was killed in the games, as well as the spatial distortions led by bugs of games. It was the first time that I felt I was unfamiliar with the reality, and I began to think about the relationship between real space and virtual space since then, and my works are also representing the reflection of this exploration.”2 

Fu Shuai had studied art at Staatliche Akademie der kunste Karlsrihe in German for a period, and it makes him constantly constructing the graphic rationality, which is associated with the use of optical illusion to present a multi-dimensional variation in a contradiction space, and Fu had a lot of practices with the use of mixed media, which is associated with simulated texture. Farocki’s had also paid attention to that, in first-person shooters as Call of Duty, digital technology presents photorealism, “a simulation that is both incomparably meticulous and hollow” — Fu Shuai’s visual enthusiasm is symbiotic with this. In the paintings, a set of unique techniques are used to portray and recall the industrial metal textures, including the combination of inlayed real things such as shackles, steel wires and nuts,

and many audiences would be attracted by the new trials and hope to confirm what they are by touching those; seen from the perspective of art history, Fu gives textures to those space labyrinths constructed in the graphics, and he has also gradually gotten rid of Escher’s classic form.       

Texture is highlighted is not only for the exploration of a pure form, in the Light leak, it brings together fluorescent colors and color blocks imitated the rusted iron products in order to form a tension, as Fu Shuai said:

“Fluorescent colors, which are brighter that ordinary white color, are commonly used by contemporary digital machines, and people who face computers and mobile phones every day have been used to the visual mechanism of fluorescent colors. Rust is a metaphor of the industrial age, and it does not only contain many textural details, but also reveal the concept of time. Like the dislocated age that we live in today, the lights and colors in the digital age are emerging from the cracks of reality.”3   

It is obviously that what is contained in such a thought and expression is a linear timeline that corresponds to the psychological crisis caused by the rapid changes of the times. However, there is still a static, fateful circle’s timeline, and Fu Shuai presents a visual symbol, that is the iron cage, as the center of the exhibition, and many works including his new series Net, which visually continuous to enhance the occlusion, coverage, isolation, and  closure, and it further uses the illusion effect led by the shadows of the iron nets to reveal a person observes the conditions of the iron cages from an impossible perspective, which has almost truly portrayed people’s psychological deliriums, trying to dismantle the cage while constantly participating in the weaving of the cage, and the both actions constitute a long period of Penelope.  

To go back to the “two boundary conditions” quoted at the beginning of the article, Fu Shuai might answer: “the edge of the ‘playable’ universe” is still a  cage, and “the limits of interaction with computer-generated characters” might be transformed into a programmer of graphic space. “When the paradox of the logic becomes the form of construction, the truth does not exist any longer”, but at least the stunned feeling should be retained, as Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer said: “Awakening is a parachute jump from the dream/ Freed from the chocking vortex”.4

1 Game Theory: Adam Jasper on Harun Farocki’s Final Project, Adam Jasper, Magazine Artforum.

2 Fu Shuai’s album The Anomalous Order, Beijing: Asia Art Center, 2016.

3 Xia Xi: Fu Shuai Solo Exhibition, Art China, August 22, 2019.

4 Tomas Transtromer Poems The Tree and the Sky, translated by Li Li, Guilin: Lijiang Publishing House, 1990.