GeoSlant: Shan Studio and Gigonline: Don’t wake the neighbours

Sheng Jie (aka gogoj) and Shan Studio

Shan Studio, 3-2-302# Sweetness Home, No.29 Huayuan Hutong Dongxiang, Andingmennei, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

It’s midnight, Beijing-time, and in the darkened living room of a small apartment near the city’s second ring road, two figures quietly attend to their bank of equipment. The performers, Taurin Barrera and gogoj, appear not entirely there, in a world of their own, working away in an environment with few sounds filling the room aside from the rustles of their movements. Projected on the wall beside them are gogoj’s wave form lightening strikes, reacting to some unheard input, building from simple shaped waves through to complex smears and many-dimensional structures as the feeds become ever more complex. The silence in the room contrasts starkly with the sounds and visuals each performer is producing within the walls of the equipment and immediately dispersed away online to a small audience which has gathered from around the world to experience False SIP, Shan Studio’s first Gigonline.

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ArtSlant: Sehgal’s Antics come to China

Taking the Stage OVER presents – Tino Sehgal

Minsheng Art Museum, Bldg F, No.570 West Huaihai Road, Shanghai

16 July – 14 August, 2011

In amongst the videos and installations by Zhang Peili at the Minsheng Art Museum (which I reviewed here last week), I also had a surprise encounter with the work of Tino Sehgal, whose works of performed discussions as institutional critique added an unusual perspective to the display of new media work.

Under the collective title “Taking the Stage Over,” curator Biljana Ciric has organised a year-long series of events for Shanghai. From July to September she has arranged for Sehgal to present pieces at MOCA Shanghai, then the Minsheng Art Museum, and finally the Rockbund Art Museum. On my visit to the Minsheng, “This is New” and “This is Exchange” had been “installed” in the reception area and in one of the galleries.

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Urban Flux magazine: Context & Content – A transposition of boundary

Fan Ling: Fat, Flat, Float

CU Space, 706 Beisanjie, 798 Art Zone, Beijing

11 – 24 June, 2011

Urban Flux magazine cover

Rather than at its appearance as part of this show at CU Space, the first encounter I had with Fan Ling’s work was as part of the Focus on Talents Finalists Exhibition at the Today Art Museum in Beijing, where the works FAT and FLAT were transposed to the new venue. Thus the art museum provided the original context for my understanding of his work and that provides a launching off point for my appreciation of it.

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ArtSlant: (Possibly) China’s First Video Art

Certain Pleasures: Zhang Peili Retrospective

Minsheng Art Museum, Bldg F, No.570 West Huaihai Road, Shanghai

16 July – 14 August, 2011

A short excursion to Shanghai from my usual territory of Beijing allowed for a quick visit to the Minsheng Art Museum, while dodging the storms presaging the arrival of typhoon Muifa. The Minsheng is a non-profit institution occupying a large warehouse-type set of spaces at the back of an off-street cultural area. It was established in 2008 by the China Minsheng Banking Corporation, and is currently hosting a large retrospective of the work of veteran new media artist, Zhang Peili.

What this exhibition does, inevitably in somewhat hagiographic terms, is support the notion of Zhang as one of the very first new media artists in China. From his beginnings in the mid ‘80s through to the present day, he has become an influential figure, now heading up the New Media Arts Center housed in a rather futuristic new building at the China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou. He is something of a father-figure for the new media arts scene here in China, a scene that goes to great pains to assert itself as an autonomous style and format amongst the often osmotic boundaries between the art forms of contemporary art in China.

Originally trained in oil painting, Zhang has developed a practice across video, filmed performance, installation, and actions, with a typically heavy conceptual backing. Early new media works by the artist can be seen to pick up on process practices from abroad, displaying durational and task based techniques, in most cases with few geographical or cultural specifics.

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ArtSlant: Two Artists and a Mentor

“Curated By Song Dong” Ma Qiusha: Address & Wang Shang: Sleuthing

UCCA Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 798 Art District, No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China 100015

16 July – 8 September, 2011

It feels like curation has become somewhat undisciplined. “Good” curation, in my experience, is distinguished by a thoughtful and productive presentation and response to the works selected. I realise this plays down the more academic aspects related to working with collections in, say, a museum context. But in the environment in China where there is little institutional support for serious curation (at least of contemporary art), you take what you can get.

However, that rather negative preamble is by way of introducing a show that ultimately restores my faith in the possibilities of curation. I think we are fortunate to see the artist Song Dong put in the position of curator as part of UCCA’s “Curated by…” series, running concurrently with his own solo show next door. His choice to present Ma Qiusha and Wang Shang, with whom he has worked since they were very young, shows the results of a long-term commitment, and the opportunity for an extended understanding of their collective work based on this relationship.

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ArtSlant: Narrative Naysaying

Overstep: Shen Yi Elsie & Lei Benben Works Exhibition

Siemens Home Appliance Art Space, Taoci 2nd Street, 798 Art District, 100015 Beijing, China

23 July – 7 August, 2011

In 2010, on a side street behind the main drag of 798, the German appliance company Siemens opened a small art space as part of their mission to “finance young artists’ projects and provide community service around China.” As part of this worthy cause, this month the gallery is hosting Overstep, a show of two young Chinese artists Shen Yi Elsie and Lei Benben, curated by Pi Li (Director of Boers-Li Gallery).

Over the past few years both Shen Yi Elsie and Lei Benben have moved from photographic works to a more expansive approach to media – in Lei’s case into video and for Shen a practice that has developed through video into public interventions. For Pi Li, their work “oversteps” discredited boundaries of objectivity, fragmenting narrative into disjointed personal histories, creating a situation he characterises as “the inversion of time and space, [where] reality starts to drift into illusion and no longer firmly detains us.”

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