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Artist Liu Qingyuan is an ultra-prolific woodcutter, treating the medium as a means of documenting everyday ideas and taking part in cultural happenings. His woodcuts incorporate elements from China’s Modern Woodcut Movement (1930s–1940s), vernacular art forms, street culture, propaganda posters, and advertisements.
The title “The Sole Certainty Is that Tomorrow Will Surprise Us All” quotes futurist Alvin Toffler’s 1980 book The Third Wave, in which the author speculates on the futures entailed by the transition into a post-industrial society. The images on the posters originated from the artist’s ongoing woodcut creations inspired by writer Lu Xun’s On Destroying the Voices of Evil (Chinese: Po E Sheng Lun), an unfinished 1908 essay that aimed to enlighten and mobilize his countrymen. Informed by these two pieces of literatures, the work presents images that are futuristic in essence, yet also highly reminiscent of the past turmoil, recalling the Cold War and the revolutions of 20th century China. By incorporating the past into the future, some dystopian, some revolutionary, some alien, the work imagines different futures that defy expectations of a linear understanding of progress—futures that simultaneously resemble and negotiate with science fiction and history.