GeoSlant: The Journey West Travel Office

Stephanie Rothenberg & Dan S. Wang: The Journey West Travel Office

The Journey West Travel Office, 43 Zhonglouwan Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100007 China

21 May – 10 July, 2011

As an agent of Spectacle, tourism fulfils manufactured desires, and you can’t get more manufactured—or at least programmed—than guided tours. Tailor-made to your requirements? Maybe so, but within your tightly regimented schedule (value-for-money!) you’ll see only what you want to see, and the tendency to cede control and the experience to the tour company itself becomes part of a demonstration of social and economic affluence. But maybe those restrictions can be put to use to provide a frame within which to re-view our understanding of the sites that we visit, through a critical engagement with the process and assumptions of tourism.

Setting up shop for the last two months in a tiny street front space in the historic Drum and Bell Tower area (once home to Beijing’s time-keeping apparatus), American artists Stephanie Rothenberg and Dan S. Wang have been running their Journey West Travel Office. The Office has been developed as a serious business, from their initial location scouting in this strategic area which sees plenty of foot traffic from potential clients, to the process of interviewing and engaging salespeople, whose subsequent travails as arbiters of the various package tours to passers-by become documentary material adding to the content of the piece as a performative intervention in the area.

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ArtSlant: Muddled Illuminations

He An: Wind Light As a Thief

Arrow Factory, 38 Jianchang Hutong (off Guozijian Jie), Beijing, 100007 China

3 July – 20 August, 2011

He An’s new installation at the store-front space Arrow Factory, is the first in a series of shows in Beijing for the Chinese artist: Tang Contemporary and Magician Space hosting shows opening this week in the 798 Art District. The installation at Arrow Factory continues the artist’s concern with lighting systems and sees a working streetlight poking through the glass of the gallery’s frontage. Below the light a small switch invites you to turn the light on and off. Behind the glass, inside the inaccessible gallery, the streetlight is broken up into short sections to fit into the confined space and snakes across the floor before disappearing into the back wall on which a black, schematic painting of rings and linking lines has been applied.

In reality this is only a third of the installation, there being another two parts nearby which the painting seems to direct the audience to. “Some 500 meters away” a shop’s lights have also been connected to system, and in another, undisclosed location another light is to be found. All these instances of lights have their respective switches, forming some kind of symbiotic lighting system that extends the reach of each flick of the switches.

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ArtSlant: Virtue in De-Virtualizing

Joseph DeLappe: Screen Shot (curated by Gordon Laurin)

Where Where Art Space, No. 319-1, East End Art Zone A, Caochangdi Village, Chaoyang District, Beijing

9 – 31 July, 2011

Combat is a staple for ingredient for all types of gaming and the urge to realism in virtual recreations of real-life battlefields has become an extensive sub-genre of the online gaming experience. These virtual fields of glory play on exercises of strategy and coordination to the extent that they are equally useful as training and recruitment tools for the military, teaching skills and attitudes that have real-world implications and applications.

Over the last month American artist Joseph DeLappe has been resident at Beijing’s Where Where Space, and the show Screen Shot presented the results of his time here. DeLappe has a long history of working in the digital realm and this show presents a series of new drawings, photographs and a video in part based on his ongoing performance Dead-in-Iraq. Dead-in-Iraq is the artist’s intervention in the freely downloadable US Army recruiting game America’s Army. DeLappe enters the game in the character of an American soldier, but refusing to take part in the battles. When he witnesses another player killed by enemy- (and one assumes, given the claims to realism, also friendly-) fire, the artist uses the in-game chat system to post the name of a real-life soldier killed in Iraq as part of the American presence there.

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ArtSlant: Not Quite a Roast

Half Rabbit (Local Whispers 2): Maria Castro, Experimenter En Couleur, Leslie Deere, Felicity Ford, Yan Jun, Christian Krupa, Catherine Shakespeare Lane, Alex McLean, Christopher Moon, Ruan Qianrui, Neil Webb, Ron Wright

Platform China, No. 319-1, East End Art Zone A, Caochangdi Village, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100015, China

5 June – 3 July, 2011

The title Half Rabbit here refers to the fact that we are now half way through the Year of the Rabbit, in the Chinese calendar. The animal years represented in the Chinese zodiac run in 12-year sequences, so for anyone born in a “Rabbit” year, the current annual cycle is a particularly auspicious time. Following the custom of reading one’s prospects based when you are born, the theme for Half Rabbit attempted to address issues of identity and fortune.

This was planned to be the return section of Local Whispers, an exchange project between Audio Architecture in the UK and SubJam in China. The first part having taken place in January at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the follow-up show at Platform China was to have seen the British artists collaborate with their Chinese counterparts. These collaborative efforts are often promoted as a way to use cultural activities to improve relations between countries. But this does not easily happen without a suitable environment in which foster such a result, and how much it occurs in practice very much depends on local conditions and effective support from both ends.

As it happened, unforeseen circumstances complicated the return of this show to China, and although there was a strong group of artists and great potential, the divided nature of the title could equally refer to the half-fulfilled final product.

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ArtSlant: Something in the Way?

Something on the Way: Alessandro Rolandi and Megumi Shimizu

The Journey West Travel Office, 43 Zhonglouwan Hutong, Beijing, China

19 June, 2011

Last weekend in the hutongs around the historic Drum and Bell Tower area in Beijing, Alessandro Rolandi from Italy and Megumi Shimizu from Japan staged the performance Something on the Way. This was included as part of Stephanie Rothenberg and Dan S. Wang’s Journey West Travel Office (a “performative installation that casts a critical eye on global tourism”). Something on the Way drew upon a mixture of traditions from Epic Theatre to Japanese Butoh performance to impose something of a delay into the everyday life around these narrow hutong alleyways.

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