History of Chemistry I

Lu Chunsheng

2 May 2004


One of the distinctive features of the Lu Chuncheng’s work is the way it breaches the boundary between documentary and fiction. A mesmerizing experience of a vaguely familiar yet remote world, History of Chemistry I follows a group of men as they wander from somewhere beyond the edge of the sea through a vast landscape to an abandoned steel factory. The protagonists seem lost or detached from reality, wandering around like somnambulant sleep-walkers. Using long shots and atypical settings, Lu Chuncheng enigmatically refers to a distant history while conveying the sense of dislocation wrought by successive stages of modernisation. The combination of elaborate landscape shots from the suburbs of Shanghai and Lu’s signature style of spare and minimally crafted acting offers a surreal view of human behaviour in a space marked by the hulking remnants of China’s extraordinary development. As the artist himself puts it, “Modern chemistry is derived from ancient Western alchemy. Pacific Asia today is like a big alchemist’s workshop; that’s why I selected this title for my video”.