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Yu Ji: Wasted Mud

Wasted Mud (Production Image) (2020). Image courtesy the artist.

Wasted Mud is a new commission and first solo exhibition in a UK institution by Shanghai-based artist Yu Ji. Wasted Mud develops Yu Ji’s ongoing enquiry into a symbiotic relationship between her body and specific terrains and contexts in which she works. By transforming the gallery into a site under construction — where what is considered debris reveals its potential for hidden vitality, Yu Ji’s new body of work exposes our reliance upon one another and renews focus on the spaces that contain and sustain us.

Motivated by an acute sensitivity to materials, Yu Ji’s work explores a tension between physical matter and energy. Recurring materials used in her work, such as cement, wood, metal, plastic and organic matter all have their distinctive characteristics, tactility and ‘temperatures’. In her installations, these materials oppose, rub and strike against one another; proposing by their proximity how they might merge, combine or absorb one into the other.

Influenced by research conducted during a residency at Delfina Foundation, London, in 2019, Yu Ji’s new commission sees London as a site to explore the body in relation to our built and natural environments. Taking her experience of the city’s canals and rivers as a starting point, Yu Ji’s installation acts as a ‘living sculpture’, where, through the use of water, Yu Ji alters the gallery’s seemingly fixed structure.

Building on Yu Ji’s ongoing series of fragmented concrete torsos, the exhibition includes two new concrete sculptures depicting bodies bound and moulded together, one contained within plaster and wood. Influenced by the birth of her first child, this new series of sculptures comments on human interdependence, exchange and transformation. 

Hung from the gallery walls and hovering just above the floor is Jaded Ribs (2021), a large handmade net filled with recycled wreckage from local construction sites in Tower Hamlets, alongside objects from the artist’s studio in Shanghai. Ten plastic tubes connected to a self-regulating electronic water pump, slowly leaking plant-infused water throughout the gallery space, alter the exterior of her sculptures and seep liquid into the building’s floor.

Wasted Mud develops Yu Ji’s ongoing enquiry into a symbiotic relationship between her body and specific terrains and contexts in which she works. By transforming the gallery into a site under construction — where what is considered debris reveals its potential for hidden vitality, Yu Ji’s new body of work exposes our reliance upon one another and renews focus on the spaces that contain and sustain us.

Accompanying the exhibition is a bilingual publication in English and Mandarin Chinese Wasted Mud, produced by Chisenhale Gallery, Sadie Coles HQ, Edouard Malingue Gallery and Verlagder Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, which will be distributed in June 2021.

As part of Chisenhale Gallery’s commissioning process, a bespoke series of talks and events is programmed in collaboration with each artist to run throughout the duration of every exhibition. Yu Ji’s commission was originally programmed as part of Chisenhale Gallery’s Commissions Programme for 2020, which comprised four new exhibitions by artists Imran Perretta, Thao Nguyen Phan, Yu Ji and Abbas Akhavan. May 2021 marks Chisenhale’s ability to successfully install Yu Ji’s commission Wasted Mud in the gallery safely. Abbas Akhavan’s new and enhanced commission will open in Summer 2021; followed a new body of work by artist Rindon Johnson, co-commissioned and produced by SculptureCentre, New York, in Autumn 2021.

Yu Ji: ‘Wasted Mud’ Chisenhale Gallery, London 22nd May 2021 – 18th July 2021

About the Artist

Yu Ji (b. 1985, Shanghai) lives and works in Shanghai, China and Vienna, Austria. Selected exhibitions include: Spontaneous Decision II, Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project, Shanghai; INCORPOREA 03, Basement Roma, Rome (both 2021); Stones in Her Pocket, Project Terrace, Shanghai; For the Children, Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai; Interrupted Meals, HOW Art Museum, Shanghai (all 2020); May You Live In Interesting Times, 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (2019); SOON ENOUGH: ART IN ACTION, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2018); ZHONGGUO2185, Sadie Coles HQ, London (2017); Why Not Ask Again?- Maneuvers, Disputations & Stories, 11th Shanghai Biennale; and The Eighth Climate (What Does Art Do?), 11th Gwangju Biennale (all 2016). In 2017 Yu Ji was awarded the HUGO BOSS ASIA ART: Award for Emerging Asian Artists, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai.

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