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Li Xiaodong: ‘Niches provide hope and happy surprises’

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Li Xiaodong on his design for the Sensing Spaces exhibition

Metaphorically, you are walking through a forest in the snow at night, which is represented by a maze of slender branches or twigs with the white floor lit from below. As you explore, you discover niches that provide hope and happy surprises. At the end of the maze you arrive at a Zen garden, which represents clear-sightedness and inspiration. This invites you to look and understand, to turn ‘blindness’ into ‘vision’.

I’m using branches because they are a natural material people don’t expect to see in architecture, and the unconventional application of a familiar material in an unexpected environment generates an effect. When you want to be creative, it’s often not about originality per se, but about application and reuse. In the countryside you might try to blend the branches with nature but in London it’s about creating a seemingly natural setting within an artificial environment.

I have used a mirror in the Zen garden because mirrors have the power to change the feeling of a space. It becomes not about the physical presence of a wall but the illusion of something else.

The mirror makes the space seem expansive even though it is enclosed. Mirrors are used a lot in feng shui, which is fundamentally about the environment and the flow of energy.

  • Extract from the Sensing Spaces catalogue
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