ArtSlant: Nooks and Crannies

Review of The Pavilion opening

Vitamin Creative Space, 2503-B- Building 2, Northern District, Pingod Community, No.32 Baiziwan Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100022, China

November 20, 2010 — ongoing

The end of November marked the inception of Vitamin Creative Space’s “The Pavilion” – their third space in China, and second in Beijing – and allowed for a revisiting of their presentation methods in their various spaces. So, what is this “Pavilion” and what purpose does it serve? And how does it relate to their previous space, “the shop”? Coming to grips with Vitamin’s selection of spaces reveals a taste for poetic license in their consistently ambiguous commercial spaces.

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ArtSlant: Busy Beehive

Review of The Third Party Part 1: How to Be Alone (or nowhere else am I safe from the question: why here?)

Platform China, 319-1 East End Art Zone A, Caochangdi Village, 100015 Beijing, China

November 11, 2010 – November 30, 2010

Developing quite a reputation as a space which encourages experimentation in their shows, Platform China currently have two shows which in their own ways leave some breathing space in the works and the formats of presentation – a rare and noteworthy situation within the oftentimes banal Beijing gallery environment.

In Platform’s Caochangdi space right now their upstairs gallery is devoted to a solo show by Chinese artist Jin Shan, presenting his mercurial series of mini-videos “One Man’s Island” as a scattered installation of monitors and projections, marking out a complex space with these recordings of the artists minor activities. But the focus of this review is actually downstairs, in a smaller room to one side of the entrance, where a rather heartening group show has been installed, which literally and theoretically opens up a space for a physical negotiation with the works on display and for discussion around them.

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ArtSlant: Kitchen Catastrophes

Review of Song Dong: A Blot on the Landscape at Pace Beijing

Pace Beijing, 798 Art District, No.2 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, 100015 Beijing, China

October 30 – December 18, 2010

The new series of video works by Song Dong on show at Pace Beijing continue the artist’s playful experiments with impermanence and the illusory nature of everyday objects, but are ultimately let down by a lackluster installation.

Pace Beijing have devoted a large section of their space to showing these four new video projections. Arranged asymmetrically, one on each wall in the large darkened space, these short videos begin with artful arrangements of foodstuffs in tableau which hark back to traditional Chinese landscape paintings or shanshui penjing 山水盆景 (tray-based arrangements of materials representing idealized landscapes). In Song Dong’s case strips of smoked salmon or a butchered pig make for fleshy terrain; cut fruit, green peppers, or broccoli stand in for verdant hills and shorelines.

Over the course of the videos various tragedies take place in these worlds. Hands from above wield knives, choppers or blow-dryers, and proceed to aggravate the landscape, toppling the parsley trees, slicing the fruit and meat formations in their destructive rampage until all is laid waste and we are left with the raw materials stripped back. But in the same way that the micro is initially interpreted as macro—foodstuffs as landscapes—we still feel the urge to remap these interventions as natural phenomena, tsunami, earthquake, or war.

Song Dong’s work has consistently dealt with this urge, confronting these delusions of fixed meanings through various tactics. Works such as Breaking Mirror (1999), Crumpling Shanghai (2000) and Burning Mirror (2001), present an image of reality destroyed in the way indicated by the titles, physically exposing the image for what it is. The new works are a continuation of a series taking food as their material, either in videos such as Eating Landscape (2005), where a fish-head vista is picked apart by chopstick-wielding hands; or, large-scale installations of cityscapes formed of sweets, consumed by the audience over the course of the exhibition.

An interesting counterpoint to the works at Pace Beijing is fortuitously on display at Beijing Center for the Arts this month in the group show “H2O.” Touched 100 Years (2010) presents 100 small monitors each showing a well-known photograph from world history, one for each year from 1910 to 2010. Every so often a hand brushes across the photo, disturbing the surface and revealing it to be a layer of water between the photograph and camera. The hand disappears off-screen, the water settles, and once again the photo is clear – but the clarity of the image and the ability to gain knowledge through touch has been thrown into doubt by this simple gesture. Whereas Touched 100 Years presents the image as a point of return interrupted by the process of disruption, A Blot on the Landscape offers no such restoration of the image.

The installation of Touched 100 Years, with its floor-hugging chain of videos snaking around the walls of the gallery,feels entirely appropriate to the extent of the piece – something which unfortunately cannot be said of the installation at Pace Beijing. It’s difficult to see how the four video projections of A Blot on the Landscape successfully occupy the amount of space they are required to fill. It is as if the installation feels it must make up for a lack in the works themselves, which may indeed be the case as these are only modest developments over Song Dong’s previous works. I feel this conflict between the arrangement and the works detracts from the overall experience, diluting the works. The weakness of the installation is mirrored in the weakness of the wall text introducing the works. This “Preface”—in pride of place as the contextualization for the works within the Gallery—seems to bear little direct relation to the works on display. Ultimately textual vagueness and contradictions, coupled with a weak installation do the artist and his works little service.

Author: Edward Sanderson

quick! get that brand an art-historian!

Quoted by Beijing fashion blog STYLITES:

“According to Lacoste, the above green polo and several other items in the collection take ‘inspiration from optical art, recalling the work of Victor Vaserely or Daniel Buren with the coriander green ultra slim-fit polo with white striped concentric boxes radiating out around the crocodile logo or the navy blue crew-neck sweater with zig-zag white stripes. It’s New Wave, mathematical and very optical.'”

Daniel Buren as “optical art”? Genius. And they misspelt Vasarely.

ArtSlant: Reflections on Beijing’s Edible Art

reviewing recent food work in Beijing

Beijingers are famed for their obsession with food, but with all this food so readily available in the capital it’s easy to forget the complex production and distribution chains involved. So it’s interesting that artist Rikrit Tiravanija was in Beijing at the beginning of the year with a solo show at Tang Contemporary. The preparation of food for the public has become a trademark of Tiravanija’s work and serves to play with social and institutional divisions, and had a pivotal role in the development of Relational Aesthetics in the late ‘90s. In this iteration Tiravanija set up a stall providing the Chinese breakfast of doufu nao (豆腐脑) to the public.

What might be called responses to this historical precedent have recently been seen in Beijing, an example being the communal food-making and meals organised by Elaine W. Ho as part of the HomeShop project. The most recent food-based activity organised by HomeShop took place in September as part of NO+CH Open Studio Camp for which custom designed “bags-cum-picnic-mats” and a mobile tower of Baozi were produced. The focus is not so much on the food in these cases, as the fact that they “outline other forms of social space.”

In cooperation with Japanese artist Emi Uemura, Elaine has also presented the more conceptual food-based activity Chain-letter Dinner, which took place as part of the “also Space2” curated by Reinaart Vanhoe in May at C-Space Gallery. Chain-Letter Dinner used crowd-sourced recipes to create impromptu meals in the Gallery’s kitchen by and for whoever happened to be present.

Mobile Container Garden at the shop

For Emi, her observation that “…in front of food people are very open and have discussions,” has served as a fertile ground for her work. Bento Delivery (in collaboration with Vitamin Creative Space), delivered home-made Bento boxes to office workers in the CBD to draw attention to the food delivery systems that normally go unremarked when we pop out of the office at lunchtime to grab a bite to eat.

When Vitamin’s the shop relocated to a rather stark Ai Weiwei-designed building in Beijing’s Caochangdi, Emi created the Mobile Container Garden which performs the process of growing vegetables in wheeled styrofoam boxes, allowing this splintered garden to temporarily occupy parts of the site. From this work (literally) grew the Calendar Restaurant, “a restaurant that only opens when the products grow in Mobile Garden.”

Announcement for Emi Uemura’s Country Fair

And on the 27 November at Studio-X, Emi is organising the second of her Country Fairs bringing together artists, farmers and community activists to sell produce and discuss the issues around their work. For Emi “this Fair is for people to share opinions about local organic produce and discover ways to support local farmers.”

Bake Shop at Arrow Factory.

Organised by Arrow Factory, “Bake Shop” has been taking place every weekend for the last month at their hutong storefront space. The tiny space is usually only viewable from the street, but for this event it was thrown open to the public with “artisan home baking enthusiasts purvey[ing] their handmade cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes, breads and coffee.”

Bake Shop: Arrow Factory founder and artist Wang Wei makes fresh coffee provided by artist Michael Yuen.

One of the founders of the Arrow Factory, Rania Ho suggests “…this is an experiment, in part to see what happens when a space which is completely non-commercial appears to become a shop. Our space has always been a reaction and commentary on the environment, the people who live in the area and who inform what we see and buy there.”

In their various ways, all these projects serve to create what Emi Uemura calls a “platform … to explore the relations of individuals, different social groups and networks with the intention of mixing them together.” And as Elaine W. Ho says, in many cases they “…are not artworks at all, but simply being aesthetically interested to understand/instigate naturally engaged exchanges, or ways of coming together and being together.”

Country Fair (Emi Uemura): 27 Nov, Saturday at Studio-X
Market starts: 10:00–16:00
Round-table talk and map-making : 13:00–15:00
Address: A103, 46 Fangjia Hutong, Andingmen Inner Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100007 China
Contact: +86 10 6402 8682

Address: Xiaojingchang Hutong 6, off Guloudong Dajie, Beijing, 100009 China

Arrow Factory (Rania Ho, Pauline Yao, Wang Wei)
Address: 38 Jianchang Hutong, off Guozijian Jie, Beijing, 100007 China

Author: Edward Sanderson