shekou redux

For those following the shifts in Guangdong structure, you noticed that yesterday Shekou, along with Qianhai, Nansha, and a bit of Zhuhai was designated a self-governing trade zone (自贸区). Inquiring minds want to know: what does that mean? Speculation abounds and adjustments are coming, but there seem to be two key points. Continue reading

“evolution” in progress

Lei Sheng and I have worked together with a team of craftsmen from a Shenzhen factory to create “Evolution”, a site specific installation for the Shenzhen Public Sculpture Exhibition. The show opens tomorrow in Shenzhen central park, along side the Futian River. Comments and thoughts tomorrow, along with images of finished sculpture and other installations. To contextualize project, please click houhai, land reclamation and/ or oysters in the tag cloud. Below, pictures of evolutionary progress.

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a day of culture

Today, there was an exhibition opening in the afternoon and a performance of The Hairy Ape this evening. Suddenly, culture all over Shenzhen. Impressions, below.

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mapping the southern block, hubei old village

Students of Hong Kong artist, Momo Leung Meiping created a series of interventions in Old Hubei Village. Projects included making pillows out of old clothing, poetry painted onto the walls, a balloon release, an exhibition of portraits, planters made out of old bricks, and a map of the area with renamed streets. We followed their tracks and discovered the joy public art can bring.

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digital soul: the 2013 independent animation biennale

Actually it’s called The World of the Soul: A Virtual Art Engineering Project (心灵世界:作为虚拟艺术工程) and it’s the first Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennale. Interestingly, in addition to the usual OCAT sponsors, Southern Weekend and Youku, two leaders in China’s youth culture also contributed to the event, which includes lectures in Beijing and Guangzhou.

Curators Wang Chunchen, Zhang Ciaotao, and He Jinfang provide viewers with a smorgasbord of videos that range from short shorts through mid-length pieces to feature films. They have also selected styles that include virtual reality avatars, hand drawn characters, and experiments with Chinese ink painting. So, if you have a leisurely afternoon, a stroll through the exhibition offers much to sample. What’s more, if you decide to watch the longer pieces, you may decide to return for a second or third time.

In addition to the exhibition, the biennale offers a series of monthly lectures. On January 22, artist Lei Lei (雷磊) gave a talk on free and easy animation. Just after the Chinese New Year on February 26, artist Sun Xun (孙逊) will discuss “Animation is a Layer of Skin”. Clearly, animation is a way of life and digital soul as earnest as painterly counterparts.

Venue: B 10 Gallery, OCAT Loft North

Dates: Dec 22, 2012 through Mar 22, 2013

Time: 10:00 to 17:50 on weekdays; 10:00 to 20:00 Saturday and Sunday

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impressions of floating color

飘色 (literally floating color; piaose) is a wonderful South China tradition. This past month, I’ve had the privilege of helping organize an updated and modernized version of piaose, working with artist Momo Leung (梁美萍), Tan Yuanxing (谭源兴),  and Tracy Lee of CultaMap (香港文化意图). Today, we tried on the costumes and put the girls up on the float. The story is fairytale happy — a flower princess and her froggy prince.

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re-en-act by liu shiyuan: the performance of appreciation

Liu Shiyuan (刘诗园) plays with static representations of performance. However, her understanding of performance skirts the edge of performativity studies, veering away from the idea of representing cultural scripts toward an awareness of how the act of appreciating a work of art requires an imaginative re-enactment of a creative moment.

In her open studio at the OCAT Contemporary Art Terminal, for example, she has designed a viewing space as a stage. Moreover, this stage is an extension of her living and work space. In order to view her work, the visitor must first enter her living area, climb onto the stage and begin the performance of appreciation. This stage has three walls. On the two opposing walls, she has hung two sets of images. In the first, small set, she downloaded and printed images from a google search — keyword “cliche” — and then applied food stickers to the images. In turn, these small images were blown-up, mounted, and given a beautiful golden edge. In terms of artistic process, these sets of images represent different moments in time, forcing the viewer to imagine the creative process in order to understand the work. In between these two sets of images, and displayed against the third wall, over saturated prints of jewels have been elegantly displayed, a lovely distraction between the creation of one set of images and subsequent transformation into another set.

Structured movement along the stage from the three moments constituting this small, but insightful installation allows the viewer to become aware of herself as a subject who surfaces the internet, precisely because Liu Shiyuan’s staging is so exact. She has isolated the elements of an highly idiosyncratic google search in such a way that the ritualized and hence common aspects of this process are available for the viewer’s contemplation. By focusing on the performance of appreciation Liu Shiyuan communicates something about the shared nature of everyday life even when the internet seems to alienate us from each other. More interestingly, her work makes explicit the interdependence of artist and viewer in order make art happen.

Liu Shiyuan is currently finishing her residency at the OCAT Contemporary Art Terminal. Impressions of an afternoon in her studio, below.

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2012 guangzhou triennial

Yesterday, I visited The Unseen, the GZ Triennial exhibition and spent a pleasant 1/2 day engaging the works of 61 artists from China and the world, including Korea, Russia, India, and Indonesia, a diversity of representation much larger than the usual “global” expositions.

Curators JIANG Jiehong and Jonathan WATKINS have selected works in which what is seen directs the viewer’s attention to what is not. Sometimes the unseen referent is concrete, like the crank that twists a rope in XIAO Yu’s piece of twisting rope, Popularity 1. Sometimes the absent referent is more ephemeral, like the possible corpses buried beneath KAN Xuan’s Millet Mounds (大谷子堆). Sometimes, the unseen is a clever joke – Tim Johnson’s never seen flying saucers, for example. Nevertheless, as a viewer engages more works, the accumulation of unseen referents blurs the artificial division between concrete and ephemeral references, directing the viewer’s imagination instead to the illusive yet invisible worlds in which objects can come to signify relentless social pressure, cultural continuity, and comic book fantasy. So yes, it’s worth making the trip to the Guangdong Museum of Art (广州市二沙岛烟雨路38号广东美术馆) to see what else is there.

The Unseen will run until December 16. Impressions, below.

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accidental exhibition, thoughts on the 7th sz sculpture biennale

Co-curated by Liu Ding, Carol Yinghua Lu, and Su Wei, the 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, Accidental Message: Art is Not a System, Not a World (偶然的信息:艺术不是一个体系,也不是一个世界) has two sections, “Unexpected Encounters,” which presents the curators’ take on pivotal Chinese work from the 90s, and “What You See is What I See,” which showcases international artists with whom the curators have engaged over the past few yeas.

Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu have written that their decision to juxtapose 1990s Chinese artwork with recent global artwork (including several Chinese artists who now travel on those circuits) in terms of a “secret glue” and the “mental bonds” that exist between creators, rather than needing “to be delineated according to artificial art politics and planned boundaries of the art system (exhibition catalogue page 25).” In other words, this is not an exhibition about the developments in sculpture over the past two years, or even about placing sculpture into conversation with other medium to get a sense of how digital art and video (the two strongest elements in the show) have reshaped our appreciation of what Benjamin once identified as sculpture’s yearning for immortality. Instead, Accidental Message is a celebratory catalogue of the desires, taste and experience of three people.

I actually get the curators’ urge to categorical disruption and their yearning for “unexpected encounters, chance glances, open hearts and respect for individuals (p 25)”. We all of us want to be recognized as unique personalities, creating connection through idiosyncratic gestures and resonating heartbeats. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure I get the impulse for random hook-ups because alienated, individual and individualizing subjectivity and celebration thereof are symptoms of neoliberal political economics and I was raised in the neoliberal suburbs of New Jersey and currently reside in a neoliberal with Chinese Characteristics Shenzhen neighborhood, [1] where pleasure is derived by crafting oneself into a subjectivity that can be picked up and broadcast over diverse, global networks, unhampered by borders or culture or paychecks or jobs or even history, in short to become a “creation of serendipity and individual spirit.”

Thus, point du jour is actually quite simple. Liu Ding, Carol Yinghua Lu, and Su Wei did not randomly encounter artists and ideas, but did so within the institutional context of art schools and certification, art grants and residencies, and arts funding choices, all which increasingly reflect the ongoing privatization of art for the benefit of corporations and their shareholders.

This year’s show, for example, coincided with the decision to rebrand the Shenzhen International Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition as the Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale and hold it at the Overseas Chinese Town Contemporary Arts Terminal and B-10 gallery. OCT is a major Shenzhen real estate developer that has marketed itself through appeals to high cultural consumption, personal taste, and of course individualized pleasure. Indeed, the event also signaled the general upmarketing of OCT culture industry as an integrated component of its real estate projects. OCAT has been formally established as an independent, not-for profit art museum and as Overseas Chinese Towns (now a recognizable lifestyle brand) develop across the country, the Museum will take the lead in creating a series of art centers under the “Art Museum Cluster Program,” which the curators will take an active lead in developing.

Accidental Message runs until August 31. I enjoyed some of the pieces. I worry that taken as a whole, however, the show is not as subversive as the curators hoped, but instead exemplifies “business as usual” in Shenzhen’s push to become a player in global cultural industry. I close with impressions, below:

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[1] In her paper Enjoying Neoliberalism, Jodi Dean provides a relevant definition of neoliberalism as “…an economic doctrine that channels state intervention toward the elimination of projects of social solidarity in favor of privatization, economic deregulation, tariff reduction, and the use of public and monetary policy to benefit corporations and their shareholders.”

Textual Logic: life as gerund

For me calligraphy has been one of the real pleasures of learning Chinese. Indeed, even when I can’t read what I’m seeing, I enjoy trying to following the line and figure out the character. Yesterday morning as part of the Textual Logic (书与法) exhibition at the OCAT Contemporary Art Terminal there was a calligraphy performance by Qiu Zhenzhong (邱振中) and Wang Dongling (王冬龄). So I was kind of “wow, calligraphy onstage. Fun.” However, it turned out that I had approached the event naively; calligraphers may or may not be fun, but the event felt like a cross between a movie star press conference and an art seminar.

The audience for the calligraphy performance was not OCAT’s typical audience who tend to have western aesthetics and a passion for conceptual art. Instead, the audience (not including the calligraphers’ respective entourages) was made up of calligraphers and folks who might be classified as calli-groupies, whose comments ranged from how the room had been set up through how the ink was mixed to how difficult it was or was not to write at this scale for so long. Indeed, it was a happy, almost fair-like event with pauses for watching and then commenting. Needless to say, the audience also complained that photographers and videographers had been given front row positions and could follow the calligrapher.

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The level of audience participation in the exhibition struck me wonderful.  Continue reading