CAC · Exhibition | The Epoch of Rippling Hengduan Mountains


The Epoch of Rippling Hengduan Mountains: The Nameless Lands

2023.9.17 – 2023.10.15

Chronus Art Center

2nd Floor, Building 11, No.50 Mo Gan Shan Rd, Shanghai



CHEN Xiaoyi



11 am – 6 pm (last entry 5:30 pm)

Wednesdays – Sundays


Free Admission



Chronus Art Center (CAC) is pleased to present The Epoch of Rippling Hengduan Mountains: the Nameless Lands, the second iteration of CAC’s 2023 program CAC Projects in collaboration with the artist CHEN Xiaoyi. The project will open on September 17, 2023 and remain on view through October 15, 2023.

The exhibition will present two artworks, When Tethys Sea Retreats Westward, Leaving The Reverberation and Hearbeats, revealing the temporalities and sensibilities mediated by the folded bodies of Hengduan Mountains. Lied in southwestern China, the mountain range with its complex geophysical processes and properties, sustains a diverse array of habitats, consequently fostering both biological and cultural diversity. It is also an important region for metal deposits in China, including the substantial reserves and production of coal and iron. If, as Jussi Parikka suggested, the excursion of the Situationists in the urban sphere in the mid-20th century can be seen as cartographies of late modern capitalism, what is CHEN Xiaoyi delineating with her walks in a hybrid ecological region that blends pristine forests, natural conservation zones, national parks, and the traces of industrial production by human?

In When Tethys Sea Retreats Westward, Leaving The Reverberation, the grand landscape shots of the Hengduan Mountains are juxtaposed with images of nameless derelict mining sites on the mountains. The subtitle and a voice-over tell two stories. One is an ancient myth of the white conch, narrated slowly by an Ersu elder shedding light on the bond between rocks and the sea, as well as the ancient intelligence of perceiving nature. The other story is adapted from Heinrich von Ofterdingen, a novel by the German Romanticist writer Novalis in the late 18th century when the science of geology and the concept of geological time emerged, the truth was considered something attainable by looking backward and beneath rather than toward the sky, and darkness and underworld were deemed as alternative paths to the sublime. The intertwining of the two narratives and landscapes takes the viewers on a journey to sense the reverberation of a primeval moment.

CHEN Xiaoyi, When Tethys Sea Retreats Westward, Leaving The Reverberation, 2022, still image © the aritst 

Heartbeats in another corner of the space consists of a few stones scattered on the floor. They are the tailings, the waste part of an ore left over after the mineral extraction, collected by Chen from derelict mining sites on the Hengduan. A screen is placed on each stone, displaying images captured by the infrared cameras Chen positioned on the boundary between the mining sites and the reserved areas. The appearance of wandering animals, flying bugs, or some unknown movements on the screen reminds the viewers of a reality in the uneconomic land of “anthropogenic ruins” that lies beyond the human horizon.

CHEN Xiaoyi, Heartbeats, 2021-2022  © the aritst


Alongside the two works are the excerpts from a fictional short story titled Solemn Oath, written by the artist herself based on the series The Epoch of Rippling Hengduan Mountains, and a journal documenting the artist’s research trip for the project. By picking up the carved metal “stones” covered on the texts, viewers will explore the rippling part of the project through another trajectory that is non-linear and folded in dark.

The Epoch of Rippling Hengduan Mountains: the Nameless Lands intends to provoke the imaginations concerning the layered temporalities of the nonorganic, the geological remnants of time. They are not only reverberations from the past but are also forming the future landscapes within the complex geophysical and media technological conditions.

The second iteration of CAC Projects will be a two-part show comprising The Epoch of Rippling Hengduan Mountains: the Nameless Lands and the participatory project River Biographies by Swedish artist collective Lundahl & Seitl. The second part River Biographies will open subsequently on October 28, 2023. More information about River Biographies will be released soon.




About the Artist



CHEN Xiaoyi was born in Sichuan, China in 1992. She received an MA Photography from London College of Communication in 2014, currently lives and works in Chengdu. Her work based on photography but not confined to specific media, focusing on the subtle perceptions of human beings by producing images. And constantly challenge the established logic, perception and imagination to explore the existence itself. In the projects that have been progressing in recent years, she has focused on the Western China as a resource area in history, focusing on the mines and mining relics in the Hengduan Mountains region as cuts, and continuously salvaging those lost time, the mystery of nature and the land. From the mining industry in the past to the mountain habitat today, she worked on the relationship between the temporal and spatial stacking of mountains and the land, and tried to scan the western mountains in China through the broader narrative.