Since the birth of Euclid’s Elements, geometry has evolved into branches of knowledge that goes beyond mathematics and science to explain our spatial relations with the universe. In the 1980s and 1990s, a new wave of expansion in technology and trade accelerated international integration, ushering in the concept of ‘globalisation’ in cultural, economic, and academic discourses. Artists, at the same time, started to invent their own visual lexicons in re-conceptualising spatial interconnectedness; geometric elements were used in art as metaphors for social space, as exemplified by Neo-Geo Conceptualism in America, Rational Painting in China, and the art styles preceding the Superflat movement in Japan.
Emerald City examines the idea of translation within geometry and compares two important concepts in cultural translation—‘transparency’ and ‘opacity’—by bringing together an impressive array of works of contemporary art including paintings, videos, sculptures, and site-specific installations by artists from China and other parts of the world. Beginning with basic geometric concepts that represent spatial relations, such as dots and lines, ratio, and distance, the exhibition looks into the structures and meanings of the cosmos, land and sea, architectural environments, the human body, and other physical and abstract spaces to shed light on the stories of cultural coexistence amid globalisation. The world as we perceive is hardly symmetrical to the world as it is. In the literary classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, everyone in Emerald City is required to put on a pair of green-tinted spectacles intended for filtering out the brilliant radiance of the utopia. Our pursuit of universal knowledge through geometry nonetheless prevents us from seeing the things we want to know. Not only will the exhibition demonstrate how geometry shapes our conception of the world, it will also inspire us to look at the world outside the confines of geometric thinking.