The New Sorrows of Young Werther

Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács


Friday June 4th at 5pm, 2010


June 4th till July 3rd, 2010


CEAC, Xiamen, China

Persijn Broersen and Margit Lukács address issues of identity and the fabrication of imagination in their work. With intricate layers of depersonalization, re-mediation and re-interpretation they demonstrate how reality, (mass) media and fiction are strongly intertwined in contemporary society.

Their work shows an intimate embrace, a continuous movement back and forth between real and mediated events, between occurrences in everyday life, in the virtual sphere, and in the media landscape. Their films, installations and graphic work have been shown internationally, including: the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Muhka, Belgium; the Centre Pompidou, France; and various international film festivals.

In the exhibition ‘The New Sorrows of Young Werther’ they choose to juxtapose Goethe’s raving, revolutionary and passionate Sturm-und-Drang novel ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ (1774) with the romantic nature of the younger generation of China today. The novel marked the beginning of the Romantic period in Europe, roaring across the continent at the end of the 18th century to cause a backlash against the industrialist, materialist and rationalist values of the time.

The tragic story tells about Werther’s passionate love for Lotte. Werther ultimately commits suicide because Lotte is already ‘promised’ to another man. The novel forms the foundation for the film/installation set in the ruins of rapidly transforming contemporary China.

In a small studio in the old neighborhood of Shapowei, Broersen & Lukács built a film set comprised of cut-out elements of the vistas they encountered during their wanderings; verdant mountains with traces of old temples, goats and ancient trees, as well as contrasting construction sites with cranes, ruins and dark clouds of dust. In this imaginary miniature version of China, the tragic story of the young, unconventional Werther unfolds. The first romantic hero in history is played by 13 different young Chinese men; they all are wearing a blue jacket with yellow trousers, just as described by Goethe (which, at the time the novel came out, caused a huge fashion wave throughout Europe). But the designs are derived from Chanel’s fall 2009 Shanghai Collection, created around the idea of an imaginary, revolutionary China that Coco Chanel never visited but always dreamt about.

With the collaboration of dancers, musicians, artists, carpenters, tailors and actors, Broersen & Lukács reveal a glimpse of the new individualism of China’s younger generation, on the verge of a changing, twisting and rapidly unfolding era.


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The CEAC art space is located in the heart of Shapowei, the art district of Xiamen.

Opening hours

Tuesday to Saturday

13:00 - 17:30

Visitor information

Siming South Road 400, 3rd Floor
Xiamen, 361005, China
Tel. 0086 (0) 592 2180850

Location map CEAC