Yun-Fei Ji’s epic scroll The Village and its Ghosts is the cautionary tale of a picturesque mountain refuge where life has suddenly gone toxic.
In a translation of the scroll’s written text, Yun-Fei Ji sets the stage of the ecological crisis like so: “Trying to escape the heavy surrounding smog and the crowded noisy life of the city, I would often go deep into the mountains to a village to live for a period of time whenever I could. Many years later this village has become my daily longing and comfort. Every time when there is unpleasant or stressful situations, the only thing I need to do is close my eyes and see myself in this village and very soon my mood will improve.
“The people in this village are the toughest people I have ever met. Even during the great famine of the 1960s, most of these people survived. Yet the last few years they had unprecedented difficulties with developers and the village officials sold land from the people. The villagers petitioned. All along the river the water is getting worse and more polluted and the wells are contaminated. I never expected this little village, which survived for hundreds of years, to be like the thousands of other villages in China; disappeared overnight.”
Yun-Fei Ji emphasizes his nostalgia and regret by depicting the 21st-century saga of the village’s demise in the throwback style of pen and brush on rolled paper. The delicately delineated landscape, and figures, the skeletons, specters and strange monsters all bespeak a world centuries before chemical runoff, hydroelectric dams and the death of the bees that once pollinated the abundant fruit trees.
The Village and its Ghosts is a bitter lament, but it is also a beautiful journey into a bygone aesthetic.
- Doug MacCash
Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, Prospect (P.3), October 24, 2014 - January 22, 2015 Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College, Yun-Fei Ji: The Intimate Universe, February 6 - July 2, 2016 Addison Gallery of American Art, Massachusetts, Convergence: Anila Quayyum Agha, Lalla Essaydi, Yun-Fei Ji, and Fred Han Chang Liang, January 27 - July 31, 2018 James Cohan Lower East Side, Yun-Fei Ji: Rumors, Ridicules, and Retributions, April 28 - June 17, 2018 Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Worlds Apart: Nature and Humanity Under Deconstruction, July 28 - December 23, 2018 Toledo Museum of Art, Global Conversations: Art in Dialogue, March 9, 2019 - April 26, 2020
MacCash, Doug, "Prospect.3 artist Yun-Fei Ji's 60-foot scroll painting is an ecological cautionary tale," NOLA.com, December 2, 2014 Wei, Lily, "Ghostly Tales: Yun-Fei Ji at Wellin Museum, Clinton, New York," ARTnews, April 29, 2016 Shen, Danni, "Yun-Fei Ji’s Ghost Stories of the Living," Hyperallergic, June 29, 2016
Morgan, Robert C., "Ghosts and Ghouls on Grand Street: Yun-Fei Ji at James Cohan," Artcritical, May 17, 2018
Gilbert, Alan, "ArtSeen: YUN-FEI JI: Rumors, Ridicules, and Retributions," The Brooklyn Rail, June 2018
Adler, Tracy, et. al, Yun-Fei Ji: The Intimate Universe, New York: Wellin Museum of Art | Prestel, 2016.