As a poet, of course, I am also a spiritual traveller.”

Born Jinan, Shandong, 1971

A poet as well as an artist, Sun Lei sees little difference between his two vocations. “They are both about language,” he says. His work is suffused with mysticism, a product of long immersion in Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity. But it also has a surreal bent, which Sun Lei shares with one of his favourite writers, Franz Kafka. His focus is on modern life, which both fascinates and worries him. “Our age is filled with overstimulation,” he says. “This makes us numb and erases our sensitivity.” Clarity (2009) presents a suitcase and its contents as they might appear on an airport scanner after a security search—except that all the items are three-dimensional. A shirt, underpants, a laptop, a mobile phone, a bottle of vodka, a condom, cash and, intriguingly, three handguns: everything is made of clear plastic, as if the scanner has rendered them permanently transparent. The work comments on the toll communications and surveillance take on our private lives, the artist says. We are “constantly scanned and assessed like pieces of luggage. … Everything is transparent, including ourselves.”


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