by Howie Chan
We are in a struggle of competing realities. The Guangzhou-based collective Mountain River Jump!—comprising identical twin sisters Huang Shan and Huang He—locates this conflict in a dimension where transcendent forces govern complex relations in our world. “REALITY CHECK 鬥法” is an exhibition bearing two names (the Chinese portion can mean “battle of magical powers”), embodying the strange agonism at play. A series of sculptural and diagrammatic works presents a syncretic cosmology that analyzes the mythical, political, and technological realms we experience.
In Chinese Immortal Cards of the 21st Century, 2016–17, a circular cosmogram made of divination cards maps the crossroads of traditional beliefs and secular modernity. Each card connects a modern cultural icon with an esoteric Chinese god. High-profile figures such as movie actors, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals represent various themes, including death, power, and justice. In this new mythical universe, the ascendance of technology is undeniable. On one card, the image of the world in ancient Chinese cosmology is replaced by Instagram’s logo. This syncretic system becomes a tool for Mountain River Jump! to interpret the meshing of traditional, Communist, and Western life. Each scenario in the exhibition demonstrates how this divinatory practice is a form of cultural psychoanalysis—as both spiritual cartomancy and Western psychology have long sought access to a collective unconscious. The father/mother and Son of psychoanalysis, 2017, is a kind of Buddhist altar to this project, in which a lenticular image of Sigmund Freud and an image of the Greek urn containing his ashes face off under breast-like shrine lights.
This exhibition can be seen as an addendum to Bruno Latour’s concept of secular modernity, defined not only by the radical separation of natural and social phenomena but also by the exclusion of the supernatural. By combining these elements, including ghosts, their new worldview may be the true parliament of all things.