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September 11, 2011

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Not just smoke and mirrors

SERGE Salat is a renaissance man. He holds advanced degrees in history, art, economics and management, and political science. He is a licensed architect and engineer.

But these days the Frenchman is an installation artist, using light, mirrors and physics. In his latest work, the installation art exhibition "Beyond Your Vision@Buick," he conjures up a structure of magical space, filled with light, mirrors and staircases.

It references advanced technology as well as his understanding of Oriental philosophy. Commissioned for Buick, the exhibition embodies the carmaker's concepts of speed, power, progress and technology. It is now touring 10 cities around China including Jinan, Suzhou, Beijing and Xi'an. In Shanghai, it will be exhibited in the Westgate Mall on Nanjing Road W. from September 16-18.

Salat has been living in Moller Villa on Shaanxi Road N. to assemble the work. He speaks a little Chinese and is studying Oriental philosophy, traditional ink-wash painting and he has climbed Mt Tai, considered one of China's holy mountains. In his work as an architect and engineer, Salat was involved in designing two wings of the Pudong International Airport.

But life takes twists and turns and he left architecture and turned to art.

Q: How long did this work take?

A: It took me four years to think about every detail, but surprisingly, it only took me three weeks to implement my plan here in China. The working pace in the country is incredible.

Q: What's the most difficult part of this work?

A: I purposely designed a space where visitors could enter. I got my inspiration from Suzhou's gardens, since I don't want to treat art as something up above in the air that cannot be accessed.

Q: What's your message?

A: I want visitors to have a unique experience, guiding them into a stunning world conjured up by light and mirrors. My installation refers to theories of physics and light reflection. Visitors will have different experiences in different parts. Sometimes they step into space with a seemingly unlimited feel, but the next step may take them to isolation.

Q: Can you say something about the essence of Chinese culture?

A: I can use three words to summarize it. First, transformation, like yin and yang, all the changes in Chinese culture are made in a mild way. Second, void. It is similar to the creation of my work, since I can always add something inside. Third, immortal, which I get from the magical power in Taoism.


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