At the End of Everything

Xin Liu

In Residence: May 22 – Jul 17, 2023

Exhibition: Jul 13 – Sep 10, 2023

Xin Liu’s exhibition at Artpace, entitled At the End of Everything, is the first installment of a series reflecting on oil as the source of life and curse of death. The viewer is lead to the concept that oil is not a passive material to be extracted, but rather a mythological god-like liquid from below that does not grant prosperity without a price. 

Upon entering the exhibit, the viewer is immersed in a space cast in amber and black hues. In the center of the gallery, there is a sculptural pyramid that harbors a glass droplet of oil. The droplet is almost embryonic in its suspended form. Oil enables warmth and life while also remaining a source of violence, torment, and death since its discovery. There is a sensation that this is a cold, malevolent object.  

The edges of the pyramid are connected by metal joints. It is a shape resonant of a toy pyramid that Liu’s family would collect every year in Karamay, China, as a monument to their city’s livelihood: petroleum production. The name of the city comes from the Uyghur language and translates to “black oil.” It is easy to spot the dark symbolism of this object as a souvenir to be collected by families and children. It is an Egyptian form originally designed as a tomb to house and preserve death. At this scale, the object’s potential energy feels ancient and formidable, like a curse or a warning. 

Oil is the only new material that Liu is working with in this exhibit. At the pyramid’s base, a fountain of black oil churns and bubbles. It gives the viewer a sensation that the liquid itself is slowly contaminating us, that it is somehow sentient, and we should respect and know its intention.  The artist suggests that oil is an evil god, and climate change is the toll for its diabolical gifts. 

The second piece in the exhibit is a silicone casted panel with a black, twisted pelvis. Veins entangle the pelvis, which were generated by 3D animation software. The viewer is invited to witness a vision of motherhood, reproduction, and the terror of birthing, an act that is exploitative by nature, sucking life cells from the mother to create a younger generation.  

Liu views At the End of Everything as the beginning of a chapter of work that she predicts will be her focus for the next three years. The artist asks us: when the oil dries up, what happens? What residue is left behind?   


Xin Liu

London, England, UK

Xin Liu (b. 1991, Xinjiang/China) is an artist and engineer. Xin graduated from MIT Media Lab with a master’s degree in Media Arts and Sciences after her M.F.A from Rhode Island School of Design and a B.E from Tsinghua University in Beijing (Measurement, Control Technology, and Instrument). Xin is the Arts Curator in the Space Exploration Initiative at MIT Media Lab. She is also an artist-in-residence at SETI Institute. She is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies, including Porches Chinese Young Artist of the Year 2021, 30 under 30 Asia, X Museum Triennial Award, the Van Lier Fellowship from the Museum of Arts and Design, and Sundance New Frontier Story Lab. Xin creates experiences/experiments to take measurements in our personal, social, and technological spaces in a post-metaphysical world: between gravity and homeland, sorrow and the composition of tears, gene sequencing, and astrology. Her recent research and interest center around the verticality of space, extraterrestrial explorations, and cosmic metabolism. 

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Alejo Benedetti

Alejo Benedetti is Acting Curator, Contemporary Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. In his role at the museum, he focuses on art since 1960 and oversees the Contemporary Art Galleries and the outdoor sculpture program. He is the curator for Listening Forest by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, a mid-career retrospective of the internationally acclaimed artist’s outdoor sculptures on view in Crystal Bridges’ North Forest through January of 2023. 

In 2020, he co-curated State of the Art 2020, bringing together 61 contemporary artists from across the United States in an exhibition that opened at Crystal Bridges and the Momentary and is now traveling. Benedetti also organized the 2019 exhibition, Men of Steel, Women of Wonder, which looked at art-world responses to Superman and Wonder Woman and traveled to the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Addison Gallery of American Art. At Crystal Bridges he has also acted as venue curator for major exhibitions including, The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse (2022) and Ansel Adams in our Time (2021), among others. 

He is originally from Texas and earned his master’s degree in Art History from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Missouri, Columbia. 

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