Chinese artist Ji Zhou works with pastel-colored maps and everyday books to transform these seemingly commonplace items into a range of diverse landscapes. He creatively reshapes old or used paper charts with his hand, sculpting them into eye-striking forms that appear as mountains to his audience.
And he has other creations too! He has collected ordinary books of different shapes and sizes and successfully crafted towering buildings from them. Zhou does not stop with the completion of each manmade architecture and landscape. He takes photographs of the structures, in order to capture their mesmerizing beauty.
These structures are part of Zhou’s “Civilized Landscape” series. Strikingly, the artist wishes that when the viewers observe his creations, they should question what they see in front of them. In fact, the viewers should raise the question as to whether civilization is an unavoidable product of evolution or a designed illusion crafted by human beings. What appears as a civilized landscape, going strictly by literary terms, is it an oxymoron or a tautology?
Two extremely ordinary objects, maps, and books, which we use in our everyday life, are wonderfully utilized to construct environmental illusions. As can be seen, these so-called illusions are in fact representations of urban and environmental landscapes that we commonly see around us.
By indulging in the translation of function to form, the artist kind of tries to narrate a story, both through the process of creation and through the final image. The cantilevered towers created from the stacks of books resemble city skyscrapers and are wonderful depictions of urbanization.
By photographing these images, the artist further enhances the touch of reality. He does not intend to provide any kind of conclusion through his work; rather he attempts to probe civilization, as he mimics peaks and mountaintops and simulates the towering skyscrapers.