ArtSlant: In Deep Water

Xi Sha—South China Sea Project No.1: Xu Qu solo show

HEMUSE Gallery, 3-038, North Area, Pinggod Shequ, 32 Baiziwan Road, Chaoyang District, 100022 Beijing

10 December, 2011 – 10 February, 2012

Entering the contested islands of the South China Sea, artist Xu Qu plays with the disjunction between the hopes and wishes that territory embodies and the reality of the places and their constitutive activities.

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ArtSlant: Out Is etc.

Tilted Horizon: Lei Benben solo show

Boers-Li Gallery, 1-706 Hou Jie, 798 Art District, No.2 Yuan, Jiuxianqiao Lu, Beijing 100015, China

9 December, 2011 – 13 January, 2012

While the basic theme of Lei Benben’s three works in Tilted Horizon at Boers-Li Gallery may be water, a perhaps more interesting and powerful linking element is their conceptual framework, which sees them setting up interactions with the spaces within and outside of the frame.

These videos, in their various formats, deliberately reach beyond the frame, setting up a strong relation to the space. The familiar strips of beach and sea of Horizon (2011) are at an angle within the projection’s rectangle, dipping into the bottom-left corner, exactly fitting into the rectangular space at one end of the gallery. The sea is and is no longer the sea, departing from its cliché, it becomes a line across the screen, across the wall, while the breakers continue to crash against the sand.

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ArtSlant: UCCA Blows Up

Zhan Wang: My Personal Universe

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

26 November, 2011 – 25 February, 2012

In what might be read as a change in direction for Zhan Wang, the new large-scale installation at UCCA broadens his works’ outlook from the establishment of monuments to the creation of the universe as creative material. In the process the artist addresses some big questions about our place in the universe, but ultimately manages to lose his sympathetic connection with the human body.

His long-running Artificial Rock series of scholars’ rocks recreated in stainless steel now dot the world, playing with the role of the monumental in public space. Critic Huang Du sees them as existing between tradition and modernity, and these contemporary versions of the traditional stones literally and symbolically reflect the appearance of whatever is around them in their polished forms. But this trope has now become ubiquitous, almost a cliché, so how does the artist progress?

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ArtSlant: Nature Calls

Not Only A Taoist Troublemaker! group show

za jia lab, Hong’En Daoist Temple, Doufuchi Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing

20 – 23 November, 2011

Not Only A Taoist Troublemaker! was a short-lived exhibition occupying a leaf-strewn room in a small arts space attached to a bar. A bar with a vegetable market behind; sharing a building that housed a screw factory during the Cultural Revolution. A screw factory built inside a Taoist temple, replacing the site’s original Buddhist temple. This overlapping of every kind of ideology provided an ideal backdrop for the six artists’ work in this show curated by forget art.

forget art is an organisation created by artist Ma Yongfeng, about whose “guerrilla” tactics I have written once before on ArtSlant. It has become well-known for the ironic nature of its exhibitions, interventions, and projects. These activities are knowingly aware of themselves and their contexts, and never take these or themselves too seriously.

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ArtSlant: Mall Magic

Urban Play: Site-Specific Public Art Exhibition, curated by Tang Zehui

Landgent Center, No.20 East Middle 3rd Ring Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing

17 November – 25 December, 2011

The many forms of site-specificity have a long history and can be the most complex of contexts for art. This idea of a productive connection with a setting, and by implication the users of that setting, is an attractive option for artists trying to boost their degree of “relevance.” However, the public realm outside of galleries is the critical realm par excellence – works existing in it are forced into competition with all sorts of other, “natural” activities in the spaces, and away from the focus afforded by more sympathetic, privileged spaces.

Often one of the stated aims of the work is to engage with the “everyday.” But the prosaic nature of these situations pricks at an artworks’ status, pointing up assumptions that may or may not coalesce with the world into which it is thrust. And, for me, this is when it gets interesting.

The group show Urban Play sees eleven artists and artist groups hosted by the Landgent Center, a large retail and office development south of Beijing’s Central Business District. This project, curated by Tang Zehui, has seen the artists on-site for the last few months developing a series of site-specific works in the public spaces.

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