top of page

Xiaowen Zhu's Solo Exhibition "The Details Are Invented"

14 July – 13 August 2017 Fri 14 July, 6–9pm: Private view Thu 03 Aug, 7pm: Panel discussion

Passen-gers – a site-specific exhibition series within the Brunswick Centre – is pleased to present its sixth exhibition by Xiaowen Zhu.

‘Our house is our corner of the world.’ —Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Inspired by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, artist Xiaowen Zhu presents a new moving image work, The Details Are Invented. This multi-channel film is a poetic probing of the space of the Brunswick Centre, an iconic modernist, residential and commercial complex in Central London with a parallel observation of Hackney Wick and Stratford – areas of rapid gentrification in East London.

Exploring these places by following the character of a flâneur – a ‘foreigner’ who strolls the city like a walking camera, Zhu seamlessly connects public and private space, collected texts and marketing language, personal narrative and critical reflection. At a time during the ongoing housing crisis and urban regeneration that is primarily focused on business and profits, Zhu combines these elements to share thoughts on how an individual – native or international – can make his or her home in ‘a city that’s always on the go, always in the middle of becoming something else’. (Franz Hessel, Walking in Berlin)

Mixing documentary, essay film and video installation, The Details Are Invented is driven by poignant and urgent questions as well as a much wider and versatile quest: How can we learn from history and avoid making the same mistakes again and again? She subtly presents this angle by comparing Franz Hessel’s concerns about urban development in Berlin during the late 1920s with the similar pattern that emerged in 1980s London. Interview footage of an architect and resident of the Brunswick Centre reflects on the consequences of profit-driven urban regeneration.

Xiaowen Zhu is an artist, filmmaker and writer. Described as a visual poet, social critic, and aesthetic researcher, she uses film, photography, performance, installation and mixed media as platforms to communicate the complex experience of being a diasporic person and to wrestle with the notion of a disembodied identity. Born and raised in Shanghai, Zhu is currently based in London. She has received numerous awards, including TASML Artist Residency Award, Marylyn Ginsburg Klaus Fellowship, Jury Award of DOK Munich, Jury Award of Mexico International Documentary Film Festival, among others. Her work has been widely shown internationally, including Whitechapel Gallery (London, UK), Whitstable Biennale (Whitstable, UK), Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum (Beijing China), Chronus Art Center (Shanghai, China), Art Basel (Hongkong, China), ZKM | Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe, Germany), V2_Institute for the Unstable Media (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), ISEA2011 (Istanbul, Turkey), Dumbo Arts Center (New York, USA), Videonale (Berlin, Germany), Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, USA), Los Angeles Art Association (Los Angeles, USA), Venice Arts Gallery (Los Angeles, USA), Strozzina Art Space (Florence, Italy) and more.

Xiaowen Zhu was selected as the sixth artist in the Passen-gers’ series through our open call. The panel was drawn to her work for its potential to to engage with the people and place of the Brunswick Centre, drawing on its social, material and historical contexts with contemporary relevance.

Passen-gers is a site-specific exhibition series that explores the historical, social and material context of the Brunswick Centre.

Artists present work sequentially to explore the real and imaginative associations of the site. The title references the 1975 film The Passenger by Michelangelo Antonioni that uses the Brunswick Centre as a powerful and otherworldly mise-en-scène. The plot follows a journalist who assumes the identity of a dead businessman while working on a documentary in Chad, unaware that he is impersonating an arms dealer with connections to the rebels in the current civil war. This notion of a ‘passenger’ as someone who inhabits transient identities and spaces, relates to how each artist is rendered a passenger within the larger exhibition structure – a structure that is generative and multi-directional, allowing different ideas, themes and narratives to emerge, overlap and intersect, creating dialogue over time.

The Brunswick Centre is a grade II listed residential and shopping centre designed by Patrick Hodgkinson in the mid-1960s. It’s often misinterpreted as Brutalist and likened to a bunker or space-ship from a sci-fi movie set – in contrast to the architect’s vision: ‘ was to be a village, not a megastructure, and never ‘Brutalist’, but would rather create a poetic construct of feel and not look...’. 2 In 2006 the Brunswick reopened after extensive renovation works. A spruced-up shopping courtyard now occupies the ground floor while the first floor location of this project continues to bear something of its former ‘state of decayed majesty and poetic ruination.’ (Brendan Woods, Architectural Review, Mar 2007)

The exhibitions are hosted and supported by Gauld Architecture to encourage wider discussions about the built environment.

Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. For all enquiries please contact: Julie Hill, Artist/Curator +44 (0)7817 529 774

  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page