For Gu Changwei to shift his attention to let's face it, MONEY, we sit up and take notice.
This departure from his usual medium as one of China's best cinematographer and directors is just as striking as the imagery in "Farewell My Concubine" when a mother uses a cleaver to cut off her son's extra superfluous finger and seals his fate with his thumb print in blood on the contract.
That is how Gu Changwei has sealed his fate now as a fine art artist. His statement is bold, as his world view.
Gu Changwei's focus is on the RBM bill; the 100 yuan note as the largest denomination yet common and within the grasp of everyone who has over eaten, over consumed, borrowed, used and abused; generally bored with a voluptuous live.
The RBM that passes through hands, to buy or sell. The commodity can be time, our brains, brute strength or even our bodies. Just like the trade we are in, we get soiled, crumpled, even stepped on. Torn and fixed together with sticky tape but is still traded with our face value intact.
However; whoever looks closely to the design, pattern, security markings and other anti-counterfeiting measures that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing won't divulge but is legible only to the sighted and completely useless to the blind.
Gu Changwei's photographs of hundred-RMB bill with macro-lens in his perspective present endless possibilities.
Least our eyes become complacent and not quite looking at things hard enough that these may provoke thoughts other than a desperate need to acquire. to amass compile or accumulate more and more regardless of the economic climate.
We take for granted: things, issues, and people. Where is the balancing force about values and doubt? Are the answers in Gu Changwei's study that steps beyond the euphoria of having pots of RMB?
Would our days be any different, cloistered and cocooned in our modern day voluntary slavery? A nice trade-off for a typical day's barter existence.
Perhaps Gu Changwei is empowered with x-ray eyes that can see through all and is free from the physical realities that snare and trap us in believing the idolatry of worship accorded to My Money, My Currency.
Is Hell written on the surface of banknotes? Shall we chronicle our wanton relationship with money? What is Gu Changwei foretelling?
Is he unfurling the unexpected and extraordinary splendour that we miss with our naked eyes?
By using different media including video, two dimensional pieces and installation as part of a detailed examination of the RMB in this exhibition Gu Changwei has reinvented himself to stay relevant.
He is lyrical and quotes from Marcel Duchamp: "Art is not about itself but the attention we bring to it."
Gu Changwei's photographs are huge 2 square meters each. The scrutiny of the RMB bill is straight from the top, some at an angle. The straight shots showed the design pattern with many levels of details.
Those angled shots reveal more textures of ink on paper.
Each individual piece is provocative.
The red lines fan out of a pineapple dotted pattern looks like the scars that decorate the bodies of Ethiopia's tribes except these look like they're cut with a sharp razor from the inside of white skin so it bleeds beneath the surface.
The sensations and feelings, the familiar identity of things finite and infinite makes an emo roller coaster ride as he presses our buttons the moment he decides to release the shutter.
Are these beauty scars of an elaborate culture as a mark belonging? No one knows these mind games. Gu Changwei's uncanny ability is story telling with pure imagery as in his films "Love for Live" and the "Dragon Head" score with strong social messages.
But right now, Gu Changwei's work is silent like an actual cold hard RMB bill, lying still, sullen and not in communion with anyone.
But if it talked to you, then it has achieve something that all artists set out to do: that is to provoke questions or repulse even.
Unless of course its pure love for money that motivates your existence!
But then who looks at a RMB with macro lens anyway?