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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Balancing Act: Notes on Translating for Future Relevance

Future Relevance / 明天,谁说了算? opened today. I translated the exhibition catalogue. Below, I’ve uploaded my thoughts (and translation of said thoughts) on the importance of learning to listen across unsaid assumptions, even when we don’t depend on a translator.

In our native languages, we speak with the expectation that we will be understood and if not, that misunderstandings can be easily fixed. Moreover, we often emphasize speaking as the sign of linguistic competence, rather than listening, reading, or writing, or more generally, an ability to navigate shared histories and cultural assumptions, political exigencies and economic conditions; in short, we take for granted all the unspoken social infrastructure that enables communication. Indeed, we are often so oblivious to the contexts of meaningful dialogue that cross-cultural exchanges often degenerate into fumbling searches for the “right word”.

Take for example a simple comparison of cultural associations with the English word, translation and its Mandarin counterpart, fanyi (翻译). Continue reading