ArtSlant: Private Philosophies

Yu Bogong: At this Present Moment

White Space Beijing, Caochangdi, Beijing, China

8 January – 27 March, 2011

In my review of Carol Yinghua Lu’s You Are Not A Gadget (at Pékin Fine Arts), I focused on the connection between that show to her work in general, and mentioned Yu Bogong’s At this Present Moment running concurrently at White Space Gallery, which she also curated and which I’ll focus on here. The spare surroundings of the gallery’s double-height space provides an appropriately ascetic setting for Yu Bogong’s collection of contraptions, arrangements, tools and drawings.

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ArtSlant: Beyond Technicalities

You Are Not a Gadget: Chen Shaoxiong, Huang Ran, Jin Shan, Leng Wen, Lu Zhengyuan, Yan Xing, Zhuang Hui & Dan’er. Curated by Carol Yinghua Lu

Pékin Fine Arts, Caochangdi, Beijing, China

15 January – 18 April, 2011

Curated group shows reveal the hand of the curator in a public display of their thinking and working process: in some cases they may take a back seat; in others be extremely visible. Curator Carol Yinghua Lu has consistently investigated the latter approach, and the group show You Are Not a Gadget curated by her at Pékin Fine Arts, serves as a point at which to analyse the results.

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Bourdieu & Darbel: The Love of Art

Just throwing out a couple more quotes taken from “The Love of Art” by Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Darbell,* first published in France in 1969. This book is essentially a report and analysis of a series of public surveys conducted at museums around Europe with the aim of understanding the audience for those institutions and addressing the perceived need to expand their reach amongst the population. The book is arguing against an assumption of innate or “natural” cultural sensitivity which can somehow be “activated,” pointing to the role of the social environment in which we grow up and length of our education in the formation of cultural receptivity which needs an equivalent input later on in life if the individual is to be acculturated (as it were). Needless to say, “class” gets heavily implicated in the receptivity (or not) of cultural material.

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艺术世界 Art World Magazine and Tuanjie Space: In a foreign land, in China

A piece I wrote for Art World Magazine has appeared in their March edition, dwelling on my experiences as a foreigner in the Chinese art world. The English version of this piece is also appearing over at Tuanjie Space, an online community which aims to “develop critical discourse and practices with artists, curators and writers.”

Doing violence to Žižek

I mentioned in a comment over at HomeShop’s blog, that I had fortuitously picked up a copy of Slavoy Žižek’s Violence last night. I only had time to read the Introduction (“THE TYRANT’S BLOODY ROBE”), but the ideas outlined there seemed apposite to the last part of my article on Gentrification on the blog, displaying in themselves strong links to Agamben’s thought. The following are selected quotes, pulling out the parts which relate to my own interests (and undoubtedly doing great violence to Žižek’s overall meaning in the process):

“… we should learn to step back, to disentangle ourselves from the fascinating lure of this directly visible “subjective” violence, violence performed by a dearly identifiable agent. We need to perceive the contours of the background which generates such outbursts. A step back enables us to identify a violence that sustains our very efforts to fight violence and to promote tolerance.

“This is not a description which locates its content in a historical space and time, but a description which creates, as the background of the phenomena it describes, an inexistent (virtual) space of its own, so that what appears in it is not an appearance sustained by the depth of reality behind it, but a decontextualised appearance, an appearance which fully coincides with real being.

“Does this recourse to artistic description imply that we are in danger of regressing to a contemplative attitude that somehow betrays the urgency to ‘do something’ about the depicted horrors?

“There are situations when the only truly ‘practical’ thing to do is to resist the temptation to engage immediately and to ‘wait and see’ by means of a patient, critical analysis.”

ArtSlant: Will the Pace Beijing Curator Please Stand Up?

Beijing Voices: Together or Isolated

Pace Beijing, 798 Art District, Beijing, China

30 December, 2010 – 28 February, 2011

Although at first glance an example of the stopgap shows thrown up during Beijing’s slow season of Christmas through Chinese New Year, Pace Beijing have laid on a group show with grander aspirations. Beijing Voices: Together or Isolated addresses recent questions about the development of gallery shows in Beijing and the role of curators in general, but cuts the rug from under its feet with its confused presentation.

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Isaac Mao / Robin Peckham

I’m in the process of editing a short piece based on last November’s -empyre- online forum on Media Arts in China, to be published in Contemporary Art & Investment Magazine in the near future. In the process I was reminded of an interesting comment made by Robin Peckham, one of the participants, referring back to an interview he had done with Isaac Mao about the concept of Sharism (the full interview can be found here). The quote is interesting to me because of current attitudes to privacy in the Chinese context, current events, and how this affects everyday life.

RP: […] how does privacy fit in with the context of Sharism?

IM: I think privacy is becoming more important. Sharism gives people a better sense of the social spectrum. Previously, we only had two polar modes: private and public, and of course we don’t like our private things to become public. However, we are now living in a spectrum that we never sensed before. Some things are private at some times, but at others they are not, depending on the context or who we are with. This is a spectrum that we can manage and come to consensus on what kind of information we can share or don’t like to share. Sometimes I share different things to different people. It’s a kind of strategy. We intuitively manage privacy now. Of course sometimes I don’t like to share my private phone number and private address in some places, like perhaps in China. But in other countries it may be different, depending on cultural difference or safety.

But we are seeing changes. In China, many dissidents and activists are open up their personal information. Why? Because previously they just wanted to close it down to protect themselves without being tracked by the government. Someone might want people to know his position so he can do things secretly. But now many are opening up this information because they see the social power. Once they’ve opened up their position, home phone, and travel plans, more people in the cloud know where they are at the same time as the authorities. He is protected even as he is tracked. This has happened over the past two years.