Yuan Keru
Traces of the Afterimage

SPURS Gallery

December 18, 2021–January 16, 2022
January 11, 2022
SPURS Gallery
D-06, 798 Art Zone, 2 Jiuxianqiao Rd
100015 Chaoyang District, Beijing


SPURS Gallery is honored to announce the Yuan Keru exhibition Traces of the Afterimage, opening December 18, 2021. This is Yuan Keru's first solo exhibition at SPURS Gallery. The exhibition will present two new video installation series, created since the pandemic, in Galleries I and II.

These video installations are connected to illness and trauma, and continue the artist’s cinematic narrative creative method in a further exploration of the individual predicament within different cross sections of history. “Afterimage” is a form of visual illusion. After gazing for a long time at a visual stimulus, a trace remains in the brain for a short time after that visual stimulus has left the field of vision. In this exhibition, the artist expands this term to lingering traces of trauma on the psychological level, describing how illness remains in one’s life like a shadow, a spectral presence, even after recovery, with a lasting impact on oneself and one’s familial and social relations.

The first floor of the exhibition is centered on the video work Guest of the Mist 2037 (2020–21), and features scenes and images from the film’s mental hospital around the exhibition space. As the viewer enters the space, the neon light gleaming through the fog places them almost in the scene itself. Guest of the Mist 2037 is a fictional video work that sets out from the experience and reflection of the coronavirus pandemic, with the blindness plague from José Saramago's novel Blindness as background and parallel metaphor. The story is set in the year 2037. The artist enlisted ten non-professional actors, all of them blind and hailing from different professions. The story follows a survivor of the blindness plague, played by Li Meng, to present the stacked invisibilities of the world of the disabled, the frailty and predicament of modern civilization, and how so called “weakness” in a state of emergency can become an awakening, driving force.

Eternity and Transience (2021), on the second floor, presents the first stage in a research series that sets out from Yuan Keru's family history of Hepatitis B, in a project launched together with journalist Yu Yaqin. Hepatitis B once had a large population base in China and was subject to a great deal of media coverage, but was long without a voice in the cultural sphere, leading the artist to probe the matter from an aesthetic perspective. The artwork consists of three screens, and uses three people as archetypes representing three groups of people who have been profoundly influenced by Hepatitis B: a mother in a mother-to-child infection, a young woman who lost a parent to the disease, and an unemployed jobseeker. Each of them takes a short walk by the sea, where they describe their regret, anger, or reconciliation. The artist encountered many lost individuals in her research into the history of Hepatitis B, and presented the state of the infected individual, employment difficulties and the disease's impact on families through methods that deemphasize specific events—a history of an illness is more than just the illness itself; it is also a history of changing social space and evolving social relations. The artist has dedicated this work to her father, whom she lost to disease many years ago.

Through the real and fictional spectacles of disease history on the upper and lower floors, the exhibition engages in a dialogue with reality. The fluidity between actors and roles, the shifting of narrative between truth and fiction, the videos on the screens and the space of the exhibition, establish multilayered relationships. Traces of the Afterimage attempts to expand people's perceptions of the increasingly complex reality, looking to the collective memories and traumas of other times and places in this time of pandemic in hopes of seeing a glimmer of flames burning even in the dark of night.