ZHOU WENDOU, ADHD, 2016, stainless steel, car windshield wiper, power switch and liquid ink, 220 × 400 cm. Installation view at De Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong, 2016. Courtesy De Sarthe Gallery.

Zhou Wendou: ADHD

De Sarthe Gallery Hong Kong

There is something tidy about Zhou Wendou’s installations. A recent work, Borderless (2015), is a flat, rectangular object made of fiberglass, stretching over ten meters long and over four meters wide, whose network of contours forms a ragged honeycomb pattern. In fact, the sculpture is cast according to the land cracks that occur under conditions of extreme drought. A synecdoche for the notion of geographical borders, the installation is Zhou’s humble attempt to restore a fractured terrain and, thus, eliminate lines of division.

One can also interpret the immaculately fabricated Two Worlds – China (2015) as an unmistakable allegory for the forces of globalization. Zhou took the standing globe, a popular item for home decor, and created a version comprising a half-circle metal frame holding not one, but two spinning globes. On one globe is the topography of China—and China only—and on the other is the rest of the world. In an interview early last year, with the Chinese online platform Artron, he explained: “A century ago, [Chinese scholar and philosopher of the late Qing dynasty and early Republican period] Liang Qichao said, ‘Chinese people will never be global citizens.’ A century later, this has held true. With the whole world active on Facebook, Google or eBay, the Chinese can only use QQ, WeChat, Baidu and Taobao. . . It’s as if China and the rest of the world are on separate planets.” With an economy of means, Zhou expresses universal concerns that are plaguing the global community—or even the human condition.

Born and based in Beijing, Zhou, who studied fine art in China as well as Spain, is having his very first solo exhibition, “Zhou Wendou: ADHD” at De Sarthe Gallery in Hong Kong, which features one single installation. Standing at four meters tall, the piece overwhelms the space at the gallery. A giant chrome sphere continuously spouts ink from the top. The black liquid cascades down and covers every visible surface, save for an arrangement of mini-sized windshield wipers that keep pushing the ink away in fleeting fan shapes. At the bottom is a large chrome basin that collects all the liquid in a pool of darkness, from which the ink is once again pumped to the top of the installation in an endless yet neat cycle of “rinse and repeat.”

ADHD” is the acronym for the psychiatric condition known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Despite the futility behind Zhou’s windshield wipers, the movement of liquid continues in a simulation of excessive activity that cannot be controlled. Whether at our computers irritated over lagging network speed or on a messaging service wondering where our instantaneous responses are, people (and society at large) have seemingly run out of patience. Our eyes and ears are constantly in search for stimuli—on small screens in our hands, or on the ever-increasing larger screens in our living rooms—resulting from an addiction that every technological innovation is turning into full-fledged madness. Standing in front of the installation, one listens to the ongoing squeaking of the wipers and the nonstop splashing of the ink, wondering what drastic event would have to happen before this farcical sequence finally comes to a deadening halt.

“Zhou Wendou: ADHD” is on view at De Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong, until April 23, 2016.

Denise Chu is managing editor at ArtAsiaPacific