Expanding from the artist's consistent observation of film language, Cheng Ran often adopts allegorical and symbolic moving images for his artistic practice. The exhibition title, "CK2K2X," borrows from an online game format and is the artist's youthful way of marking the year. Initially, the artist intended to title the work "CK2K20", which indicates the year of the work's expected completion (2020). During the project's creation process, which lasted several years, various factors made progress unpredictable; hence, the title "CK2K2X" also implies the unknown. With such expansive source materials, it shapes its versatile semantics.
The final data editing of "CK2K2X" includes 109 clips of moving images, various soundtracks, texts and 1400 photographs. This body of work will be dispersed in four exhibition spaces under distinctive propositions. Until this day, the piece is still being supplemented and edited, which are made apparent in the film. "These short films are woven together like a tapestry to create a story about contemporary China from different perspectives," says the curator, Francesco Bonami, "Cheng Ran's approach delves into an idea that considers China as a lens that allows one to perceive this diverse yet unified planet from multiple angles." In addition, Cheng Ran invites Shanghai-based musician Wang Wenwei to create an interpretive and lengthy soundtrack for the work in an attempt to transform reality into a non-real space through video, music, and narration of the exhibition.
At the beginning of 2017, inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni's documentary film Chung Kuo: Cina, Cheng Ran began filming "CK2K2X". Through extensive travel and filming, Cheng Ran tried to capture the diverse perspectives and experiences of China's ongoing transformation from his viewpoint over the next three years. His lens points to the natural environment, urban landscapes, iconic landmarks, fungi and animals in their natural habitat, animals in captivity, and close-ups of people. The scenes beyond the everyday life scope often leave a significant impact on the artist; they pour into this work's making process randomly and continuously, which allows Cheng Ran to achieve a sense of "traveling around China." In his view, this is a process of "losing control," an improvised, on-the-spot presentation that adapts to the site’s spatial structure and temperament. Cheng Ran is constantly looking for new ways to present reality. In circumstances where change is impossible in the present, he opts for the fantastic to propose alternative visions, whereby resolving the nihilism in grand narrative with personal takes.
In the artist's eyes, this work does not constitute a documentary film but using integrals of reality and fictional components as “cached data" to express the perception of the self, environment, and the world, his seemingly quotidian recording tries to preserve the individual’s views of the world and deflecting the complexity histories interwoven in a city from a personal angle. As a representative of a new generation of video and cross-media artists in China, Cheng Ran’s practice that expands the art forms of film, poetry, theater, fiction, and installation, searches, visits, and relives his journey from the "present" to the possible future in the universe, while offering prismatic views of the world we live in.
For the duration of this exhibition, BY ART MATTERS and Cheng Ran will launch Radio CK2K2X on social media channels to assist visitors in further understanding the concept and creative approach of the show in the form of light-hearted interpretations. As the exhibition opens, a series of public programs, including performances, dialogues, and guided tours, will also be launched. At BY ART MATTERS, visitors will be challenged by their past linear perceptions by following Cheng Ran's perspective while furthering their understanding and enriching our memories in an entirely contemporary vision influenced by social media and new devices.