A mesmerizing experience of a vaguely familiar yet remote world, History of Chemistry I follows a group of men as they wander from somewhere beyond the edge of the sea through a vast landscape to an abandoned steel factory. Using long shots and atypical settings, Lu enigmatically refers to a distant history while conveying the sense of dislocation wrought by successive stages of modernization.
Lu has developed an oeuvre that consists of characters in bizarre situations. The large-scale photograph I Want to Be a Gentleman depicts nine men standing like statues on display in a museum on tall plinths in front of a run-down industrial building. Lu’s brooding films and photographs are preoccupied with China’s industrial era and communist history.
A particularly generative aspect of Lu Chunsheng’s work is the way it breaches the boundary between documentary and fiction. Rather than merely illustrate it, his conceptual and methodological coherence broadens and extends his inquiry into everyday life. Unlike many of his fellow artists who emerged from the same generation, Lu does not focus on the alienation inherent to an accelerated urbanization and its stream of rapidly moving images and perplexed inhabitants.