Huang Yong Ping’s Bugarach

Doomsday believers may be halfway to the French Pyrenees as we speak. Probably lugging their precious possessions with them as they make their way to the little village named Bugarach, the only place to be spared in this coming Friday’s apocalypse, thanks to the aliens believed to be living in its central cavity. How does it go? The hilltop opens and the aliens save mankind within a given radius? I think that’s how it goes, yeah. That makes perfect sense, doomsday believers!

But why make the trek when you can see the preview right here, in the 6th arrondissement of Paris? Huang Yong Ping, a contemporary and avant-garde artist born in Xiamen and a founding member of the post-modernist Xiamen Dada group (they eventually burned down all their works — which makes me smile, the way they took the famous Dada is nothing, nothing, nothing manifesto to heart — presents us with Bugarach, a chilling installation of the events that may or may not unfold, his second solo exhibition at the Galerie Kamel Mannour.

Hanging from the ceiling of the first room are alarm sirens, large and imposing and utterly silent. There’s a sense of something sinister in the air –  and stepping into the second room, you understand why. Standing around the room are sixteen animals. Sixteen decapitated animals. Red cutout cardboard discs cover the space where their necks have been cut.  The animals are standing every which way, wandering aimlessly … and who wouldn’t be doing the same thing, when headless?

A gigantic rock representing the Bugarach peak in the next room practically takes up the entire space. A giant platter is wedged against its rocky edge, with the heads of the animals from the next room staring up at a helicopter hovering overhead, begging for reprieve with empty eyes and open mouths.

So what does it all MEAN? When faced with a countdown to the end of time, does it even really matter? The idea of a spaceship hidden in a sacred mountain is ridiculous. But I find Huang Yong Ping’s version of this event even more petrifying than a fireball hurtling towards me at lightning speed.  The vacant eyes of the animals, the aimless wandering of their bodies… it’s a parody of what we have all become, and in that sense, we are all – already – doomed.

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