Huang Cheng, a young artist, has aroused concerns of the art scene and even the public with his surrealistic artwork—two silica gel-made lifelike sculptures of a pig and rat who receive cupping therapy. It doesn’t take long for people to draw the obvious connections between the theme of this work and the current affairs. For instance, “fat rats” are easily associated by netizens with those corrupt officials fattening themselves by shamelessly exploiting people. It is unavoidable that these pig and rat would be interpreted as a reflection of the state of contemporary Chinese society and the gluttonous and unscrupulous actions by a segment of the Chinese population. These people are apparently “sick”, but contrary to expectations, the remedy for them is China’s time-old fire cupping therapy—a mild physiotherapy—which gets people thinking more about its implication.
However, Huang Cheng himself is just ambivalent about his own attitude of social criticism. He doubts the efficacy of art as a tool of social intervention; he remains unsure of the means he has chosen to express and the exact objects of his critique. On the other hand, he can not bear to turn a blind eye to the reality out of his deep dissatisfaction with the status quo of Chinese society—the gap between social ideals and social reality, the eroded sense of responsibility, the atmosphere of mutual suspicion and deception, the shameless pursuit of selfish ends, and the like. This is Huang Cheng, who directly and clearly gives a signal to the viewers and who never ceases to question himself with an ambivalent attitude. His ambivalence also serves as a reflection of the controversies in current society and art; in other words, he has never been aiming at pointing a practical way so much as at arousing people’s self-examination by alienation and defamiliarisation.
Recently, his ideas are not restricted in providing the viewers much food for thought; he gradually transfers this critique to his own body. While the large sculptures of pig and rat evoke the image of a fantastic, extravagant and vacant world, every individual, every “I”, are participants of this world and might render others similar feeling. Therefore, Huang tries the same fire-cupping therapy for himself, practising his criticism by self-involvement, which symbolises a change from a grand and social narrative to an individual and private narrative. More importantly, this physical experience offers him an access to the inner core of those complex feelings between criticising and being criticised, a state interwoven with love and hatred. His motivation for this work and the following multi-perspective interpretations deserve the public’s consideration.
"Fire-Cupping in A Floating World: Exhibition of Huang Cheng" - written by Hu Bin