Qin Jun: Chain Effect

Life on Earth began about 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. During this long period, the planet’s evolutionary history of life has seen the emergence of distinct species, their intraspecific variations, and the disappearance of many others. More than 99% of all species that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct. Through ongoing archaeological work, humanity has sought to explore and understand these past species. Given the present conditions of rapid technological advancements and constant changes in the natural environment, what new species will we see and what kind of world will we live in?

Qin Jun’s recent approach to sculpture draws influences from industrial production, biological history, science fiction narratives, and digital technology. His latest sculpture series, Chain Effect, attempts to imagine a futuristic world inhabited by novel species and capture the presence of these new life forms. In this hunt for futuristic creatures and the process of taxidermy, man’s incessant need to possess nature and alter it through technology becomes inevitably apparent.

Qin’s new body of work is an imaginative exploration of the future forms of plants. The chain reactions involved in the growth of plants encompass a complex set of biochemical and physiological processes, beginning from the absorption of nutrients and water, which leads to the division of cells and expansion of tissues, eventually contributing to the maturing of the plant. In imagining these “nonhuman” species, Qin examines the possible growth of plants under the combined influence of human intervention and natural selection. Through a variety of mediums, the works on view depict this process at its different stages. The acrylic painting Wild Type offers a microscopic view of plants’ cell division and expansion, revealing the transformative undercurrents of life. Control Check is a suite of sculptures that evokes the environment of a human-operated research lab. Each rendered in a particular yet abstract form, the sculptures depict how plants absorb nutrients via roots and stems. These alien-like organs suggest the diversity that occurs within the evolution of life and human’s heightened desire to control life in the process of technological development. Mutant addresses the ethical issues of life science: by regulating hormones, humans are capable of controlling plants’ maturation. The web structure in this work also symbolizes the formation of neural networks in individual plants, hinting at the emergence of intelligence during this process of evolution. After these different stages of growth, an entirely new plant life form is finally created in Aria: signifying the blossoming of life, the sculpture consists of layers that represent the roots, stems, leaves, and fruits of the plant, vibrant and elegant. Unlike the growth of a typical plant, Ariaseizes the moment of blossoming by capturing changes through a multiplicity of dimensions—taking place inside the laboratory propagation tubes, the process of plant breeding seems magical. Plants’ growth and fruition are rendered visible through data, which preserves the fleeting moment of blossoming and the eternal present.  

Through their mutual conversations, the works in this exhibition reveal the chain reactions that fuel the growth of plants, allowing plants to take on new lives within the tensions between their own natural trajectory and the control exerted by humans. Another work on view—24—juxtaposes the growth of flowers with the movement of clock hands, poetically illustrating the shared temporality of all lives.

Despite their wide range of mediums and materials, the production of these works all involved the use of the latest 3D modeling algorithms in combination with traditional materials and fabrication methods. The artist’s distinct method aptly reflects the focus of this body of work: the imagined fusion of traditional life forms and futuristic technology.