Ge Yulu “GE Yulu”
The presence of Ge Yulu’s work in the exhibition "Rules?" at 21_21 Design Sight comes as a surprise, and is a perfect fit in the show’s context. His work “Ge Yu Lu” (Geyu Street), made during his student years at Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) has made him widely known to a lot of young people in China. With the word “Lu” already part of his name, he persistently planted it in unnamed alleys in Beijing. This naive rebellion and absurd insistence moved his peers, who were caught between the rules of everyday life and ideological norms. This tradition seems to have existed for quite some time at CAFA, which is located in the most intensely regulated city in China, Beijing. Just recently, an experiment by a student currently enrolled at CAFA named Zou Yaqi, saw her ‘package’ herself as an uptown girl and live without spending a penny for 21 days by taking advantage of various upper-middle-class resources, also caught the attention of social media.
“Street” is an important zoning unit in Chinese cities, its counterpart in Japan being block (chome). Ge’s performance of a play on words shouldn’t have any difficulty in conveying itself to a Japanese audience already familiar with the character (kanji). But the different rules about urban planning makes one wonder how much of that crucial little quirksome quality in Ge’s work can get through. Not to mention how the increasingly oppressive regulations in China today make this work, and this type of practice, increasingly unachievable. Ge Yulu eventually returned to the white cube to pursue his questions and challenges. How long will those who visit the Rules exhibition be able to keep their own questioning and challenging posture?
On the day we visited 21_21, September 22, the Rules exhibition was filled with groups of young people in their late teens and early 20s who weren’t shy about trying out the various interactive installations. The space looked like a section of a social science museum (if only there was such a thing!), with an undemanding intellectual threshold and a moderate/complacent political attitude that could serve as a starting point to induce attention, with little intention of actually creating an environment for in-depth discussions.