In the heart of Sydney's Chippendale, the White Rabbit Gallery has unveiled its 28th exhibition, A Blueprint for Ruins, curated by the insightful David Williams. Running until 12 May 2024, this exhibition delves into the unsettling consequences of China's rapid urbanisation, exploring the shadows cast by progress and the haunting echoes of displaced lives.

Beneath the sheen of progress and development, a simmering undercurrent of violence unfolds as cities in China transform themselves into modern marvels, leaving behind deserted streets and vacant apartment blocks. The exhibition prompts gallery visitiors to ponder a perplexing question: in this bright new world, where have all the people gone? Through an evocative display of artworks, A Blueprint for Ruins navigates the haunting reminders of an abandoned dream, where each new architectural creation necessitates the destruction of another, leaving behind a trail of forgotten monuments reminiscent of a long-lost civilisation.

As China's cities embrace modernity in a relentless dance of renewal, the exhibition sheds light on the intentional design of buildings destined for demolition even before their completion. The casualties of this development, the displaced individuals, wander through the ruins of their ruptured world. Abandoned spaces, once homes to ancestral sites and legacies of long family lineages, now stand as silent witnesses to the cost of rapid urbanisation.

At the heart of this poignant narrative are the "nail houses," defiant structures that occupy land of immense value, resisting the encroachment of rapacious developers and government-sanctioned mass clearances. These structures weave another layer into China's complex urban landscape, embodying both impermanence and resistance. The exhibition explores the stories of these nail houses, their resilience in the face of destruction, and the tales of the dispossessed etched into the very fabric of their existence.

A Blueprint for Ruins is an invitation to engage with the remnants of memories embedded in each structure, even as the walls crumble. The artworks within the exhibition act as a guide through the dispossessed shadows within China's urban metamorphosis. Artist Hu Weiyi captures the essence of the exhibition's theme, expressing, "It's as if every abandoned building, about to disappear, is attempting to sing its last note, and eventually they will come together to form a requiem for an era."

The White Rabbit Gallery, established in 2009 by Judith Neilson to share her private collection of 21st-century Chinese art, continues to be a vital space for the public to explore the complexities of contemporary Chinese artistic expression. A Blueprint for Ruins fulfils its promise as a thought-provoking and visually compelling exhibition, providing a platform for reflection on the social and cultural impacts of rapid urbanisation in China. A journey through the gallery confronts with poignant narratives of the dispossessed, encapsulated in the ruins that stand as both witnesses and testaments to the ever-changing landscape of progress.

White Rabbit Gallery
30 Balfour Street, Chippendale NSW 2008
Open Wednesday to Sunday 10am — 5pm (during exhibition periods)

Free admission

Images top to bottom: 

  • CHEN WEI 陈维, Drunken Dance Hall, 2015, wood, steel, luminescent paint, broken glass, lights, acrylic, mirrors, site specific, dimensions variable.
  • ZHANG DALI 张大力, Square 9, 2014, resin, 180 x 170 x 90 cm.
  • WANG GUOFENG 王国锋, Ideal 1-10, 2006-07, pigment print, 10 pieces, dimensions variable.
  • BAI YILOU 白宜洛, Illumination, 2011, antique household lamps, approx. 600cm diameter.

All photographs: Hamish McIntosh.