Opening Reception: December 24, 2011 at 7pm-10pm
“The Garden of Forking Paths” is a series of painting works by Zhai Liang in 2011, which was given the same title with Borges’ short story, with similar virtual narrative structure. The story takes place in 1916 during World War I. The main character Yu Zhun is a Chinese national and a German spy working in Britain. He recounts the events leading to his arrest while his contact has been killed. He must get an important message to the Germans, the location of a secret cache of British weapons -- a French town called Albert. Yu Zhun tends to imply this on newspaper to his boss by killing a man named Albert. When he finally gets to the person Albert, he finds out the man who named Stephen Albert studies his descendent Pen Zui’s legacy for some time, explains to Yu Zhun that “the Garden of Forking Paths” and the novel are one and the same and that the novel's seemingly incompatible storylines present the idea of the bifurcation, or splitting, of time, rather than space. (In other words, whenever the characters come to a point at which more than one outcome is possible, both outcomes occur. This causes the narrative to branch out into multiple narrative universes, which then provide the scenarios for new bifurcations). Seeing Captain Madden approach, Yu Zhun just realizes his purpose for the trip , then shoots poor Albert in the back. Though Madden succeeds in arresting Yu Zhun, he has succeeded in relaying his message – the secret weapons stash is in the city of Albert.
When Zhai Liang’s working on this series of visual works, he changes the usual binary structure (the audience and works) into the ternary structure (the audience, works and the other work), to remove the first- opinion in reading and put the result among the three of them. From the novel, he finds the novel framework of Borges gives the paintings a hypertext, universe-like feeling, and also intends to create a seemingly rigorous story with visual narrative structure which actually has a invisible core of metaphysics, so that the free exchange of ternary structures could be possible.
This virtual reality combined with reality, just like the flower of Coleridge, which seems particularly wonderful.