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Cheng Ran: Always I Distrust

, Gazelli Art House, London

Always I Distrust (2020) is the first VR artwork by the celebrated multimedia artist Cheng Ran.  Conceived as a sequel to his video work Always I Trust (2014), it continues Cheng’s explorations into the emotional isolation of city life from a new perspective. The earlier work was inspired by a computer-generated spam email sent from an unknown woman to the artist, whereas Always I Distrust assumes the perspective of an abandoned hacked email account, auto-generating incomprehensible missives to hundreds of recipients. 

For Cheng Ran, whose prolific body of video work is known for its highly innovative visual language as well as its spatial and emotional complexity, his first foray into using virtual reality is a natural extension of his artistic practice. Always I Distrust showcases Cheng’s distinct ability for creating profound environments. The concept of distance is pervasive throughout the work, evoking a meditative space, often forgotten within the internet’s immersive landscape. As viewers put on their headsets, they are thrust into the fictional setting, where liquid spaces and interconnected portals are traversed in a nine-minute fantasy experience that is part excavating memories, part gazing at the unknown. 

According to Cheng Ran, “if urban construction is done by thousands of unknown workers, then construction of the information city should include these ‘virtual builders.’ As rapid urban development brings unprecedented technological changes, the relationship between cities and people has evolved accordingly. This relationship now stands at a new crossroad, over a new horizon.” 

VIVE Arts has partnered with Gazelli Art House in London to present the UK premiere of Always I Distrust. It will be shown as part of an immersive exhibition, alongside the artist’s video installation of the same name and a physical sculpture, with all three works exploring narratives of seclusion and life in the city. 

Always I Distrust debuted in 2020 as part of the opening exhibition of the X Museum, Beijing and is commissioned by K11 Art Foundation and VIVE Arts. 

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