Huang Yong Ping: One Man, Nine Animals (1999)Posted: June 7, 2011
Nine mythical beasts which presage disaster are on the march. A wagon used to measure time and direction lies broken on the ground. If you didn’t laugh, you might cry.
The snake with two tails foretells drought (Currently in Europe, tick). The boar with a human head foretells floods (Singapore, tick). The eagle with one claw foretells epidemic (E.Coli, tick).
These chimera come from a 2,300-year old Chinese book called Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. But any travelling party once with the installation here appears to have fled.
A clockwork figurine built into the traditional Compass Chariot is the human presence suggested by the title. Traditionally pointing South, he now appears to send the herd West.
This work was first shown in 1999 at the Venice Biennale. Those columns punctured the ceiling of the French pavilion just as they now infiltrate a Norman castle in Caen.
But the millennial angst seems fresh enough. Not even these fortifcations can keep out the sense that trouble out there may come home to roost like a cock with a human head (foretelling war).
And finally, as newsreaders say when it all gets too much, these creatures are cast in a bright and light metal, aluminium. The fish is a good sign. The monkey is ambiguous. It might never happen.
This is one of four works in the sculpture garden at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen. See gallery website for further details.
PS: I’m grateful to an anonymous document hosted by the Académie de Caen for a key to the various creatures.