Behind Utopia: Xu Bing’s Travelling To Wonderland

I have always been fascinated by things that are not as they seem; first glances deceive- second might convince, but look closer, deeper and you will see what lies beneath. A cover model’s beauty enhanced by a few Photoshop brush strokes, a holiday brochure showing a filtered paradise, a moment that looks better in the picture than in real life. A picture-perfect perfect picture.
This is why I am standing in the middle of the poring rain, looking at a destination that proved to be as temporary as the footprints that led the visitor there. The John Madejski Garden at the V&A was transformed by Chinese artist Xu Bing into an ethereal utopia. Inspired by Tao Yuanming‘s 421AD classic Chinese fable Tao Hua Yuan (Peach Blossom Spring), the story narrates a land in which people lead an ideal existence in harmony with nature unaware of the outside world, unaware of the flaws that serve as boundaries from and as building block of the external world, the real world.
But as you look at that utopia closer, you see what it takes to create it: fans, heaters, lamps and filters create an image of perfection; a life-sized Photoshop, a filtered day dream.
Reality is built from imperfections; small, vulnerable, loveable, and true imperfections that serve as the dark to the light that is the ideal. That does not mean that they are not valuable. There is nothing more gratifying than learning to love your imperfections, there truly isn’t; and there is nothing more shocking than realising that others can and will love them too. There is an inherent cuteness in imperfections, an imbedded interest: if you run your fingers a smooth surface, you will stop for a few seconds if you feel a mark; your fingers will go back over it, observe it from all angles, explore and discover it. It is the imperfection that we find interesting, not the metres of flawless surface.
Learn to love your imperfections, or settle for trying to reach a wonderland just to spend the rest of your time there pretending the filters are real.



2 thoughts on “Behind Utopia: Xu Bing’s Travelling To Wonderland

  1. I normally read your blog, and I always like what you write and how you write it, but this post in particular is superb! I love it and feel grateful because more and more people is expressing how imperfections are part ‘The Beauty’. I hope that with this kind of texts more people can realise this and be at peace with themselves. Thanks beautiful writer!

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