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Obstacles in daily life don't just impede the disabled, artist proves

By Jiang Yuxia (Global Times)

10:22, August 16, 2012

Having taught at a school for the disabled in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, for two decades, multimedia artist Cheng Yong is familiar with the barriers his students face in communication. Following his large-scale exhibition under the theme of "Obstacle in Shanghai" four years ago, Cheng has continued to hone his unique artistic language and expression by experimenting with different media.

From deconstructed Chinese characters to sign language for the deaf, the 51-year-old artist now ventures to use Braille as the central media for his latest solo exhibition at Today Art Museum. Entitled "Obstacle" and inspired by the way the blind interact with the world, the exhibition represents their obstacles faced in many facets of life, including interpersonal relationships, religious and culture conflicts, international relations and psychological torment.

The collections of paintings, videos and installation works include scratched portraits of Buddha on transparent PVC, portraits of historical figures such as French philosopher Marcel Duchamp and China's Terracotta Warriors pinned down with steel nails, and a short film recording a deaf man and woman singing joyfully at a KTV parlor on a blind date.

Accompanying the images are texts in Braille interpreting the artist's thoughts. While it might be impossible for the blind to see Cheng's art, the system of printing and writing allows them a window to understand.

"The concept of obstacles doesn't only refer to physical barriers the disabled face daily. I use it in a metaphorical way," explained Cheng. "As our lifestyles are vastly different from those of 20 or 30 years ago, we encounter barriers while we are experiencing another culture; we encounter barriers concerning our lifestyles and thinking, too."

The majority of the paintings are of religious or historical figures, signifying the artist's concern over the diminishing power they have today. Traditional culture is experiencing great obstacles as well, Cheng said. "They aren't as effective as they were in people's lives, but people can't live without them."

When: August 17-30

Where: Today Art Museum

Admission: 20 yuan

Contact: 5876-0600

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