6/6: Walking Man by Wang Luyan (2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale)

To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. In this last piece, the sixth that was included in the catalogue, I address Wang Luyan’s Walking Man which I feel expresses many of the ambiguities found throughout this artist’s work. Thanks for your attention, I hope these pieces have been interesting for you.

“Walking Man”

Sculpture, 1991

Wang Luyan, Gu Dexin and Chen Shaoping’s founding of the New Measurement Group (NMG) (active from 1988–1995) represented a choice to focus their work on rule-based activities that reduced the mark of the individual to a minimum, if not removing it entirely. Wang’s own works to a certain extent also followed this way of thinking and working, but retained a marked stylistic quality that is clearly his own. At the time NMG’s approach and Wang’s work represented a position in contrast to the supposedly illogical, irrational art of what became known as Political Pop. The group’s interest in “logical” forms of presentation and the concepts that they illustrate (sometimes referred to as “rationalist”) become illustrated forms in Wang’s sharply delineated paintings, toying with barely suppressed paradoxes.

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ArtSlant: Photography’s Phantom

La Chambre Claire: Liu Chuang, Liu Wei, Wang Yuyang, Zhang Liaoyuan, Zheng Guogu, curated by Tang Xin, Su Wenxiang, Xu Chongbao

Taikang Space, Red No.1-B2, Caochangdi, Cuigezhuang, Chaoyang District, 100015 Beijing, China

7 April – 2 June, 2012

Zhang Liaoyuan, A4 and A4 and A4 2012

With an abrupt reference in its title to a book by Roland Barthes (which appeared in English as Camera Lucida), this show gets underway, presenting works by five Chinese artists with a relation to the “phantom” of photography.

The artists’ particular approaches to the medium of photography are varied. In this show Liu Wei is the only artist to include actual photographs, with several examples from his series As Long As I See It, from 2006 on display. These works demonstrate a certain instrumentality by the artist, as he takes a Polaroid of an object and then proceeds to cut away parts of the original object to match the view presented in the photograph, presenting them both together in some kind of cause and effect relationship.

Liu Wei’s view of photography as a process forming the world in its image is the most straightforward use of the photographic medium in this show. The other works in the show proceed from the fact of photography to step away from the object of the photograph into terrain that addresses the meaning of this thing that is called photography.

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5/6: Kill by Sui Jianguo (2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale)

To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. Next up in this fifth of six pieces, the subject is the wound length of rubber seen recently at Pace Beijing’s solo show of the work of Sui Jianguo (note this text refers to an alternative, wall-mounted version, than that finally displayed in the Shenzhen show).

“Kill”

Rubber and nails, 1996–1997

Kill represents a point in Sui Jianguo’s work where his work past from an early “expressionistic” stage through to more conceptual representations, reflecting a more ironic use of symbolic imagery that could be seen as developing in parallel to the emergence of cynical realism in China at the time.

The two, long rubber sheets of Kill hang off lengths of old wood, the whole structure propped up against the wall. The sheets are studded with thousands of small nails forming an intricate, abstract pattern over the rubber surface (these patterns are perhaps more obvious when viewed from the side where the flat heads lie). Overall the strips look somewhat like flayed animal skins, hanging up to dry. Their bristly surface also has a thick, carpet-like appearance, belying the sharpness of the nail’s tips.

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4/6: Breathing by Song Dong (2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale)

To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. In this fourth piece, of the six in total, I talk about the fact that many of Song Dong’s works deal with the traces we leave and the access that gives us to the perpetrators.

“Breathing”

Colour photography, 1996

These twinned photographs record two actions performed by Song Dong in Beijing during the winter of 1996. Alternately laying face down in Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square (the de facto locus of recent political history in China) and then on the frozen surface of Houhai Lake (one of the man-made lakes fringing the Western edge of the Forbidden City, to the North-West of Tian’anmen Square), in each case Song simply breathed for 40 minutes onto the surface in front of his face. In the sub-zero temperatures of those winter nights his warm, moist breath formed a crust of ice on the flagstones in the former location, but reportedly had little effect on the lake’s thick ice. By the morning all trace of these activities had disappeared leaving these photographs behind as their record.

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3/6: The Mirror Stage by Simon Fujiwara (2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale)

To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. This is the third of the six pieces I wrote, this time about Simon Fujiwara’s religious experience in front of a work of art and the work’s life within the world.

“The Mirror Stage”

Performance, 2012

What does our experience of art tell us about ourselves? We might experience the meaning and value of art through our understanding of the work of the ‘genius artist,’ or in a superlative experience that overwhelms us, an ecstatic appreciation, a moment of bliss. These understandings are essentially subjective but have become part of the mythology of Art’s work in the world, to make up in some way for its lack of practical use perhaps. As such the validity and value of these understandings cannot be taken at face value.

“Epiphany” is the word used to describe artist Simon Fujiwara’s experience in the mid-‘90s, standing in front of a large colour-field painting by artist Patrick Heron, then on display at the Tate St Ives (an outpost of the Tate Gallery in Britain). Although this event is apparently what set Fujiwara on the road to becoming an artist, we are also led to believe that, rather than a particularly spiritual epiphany, this case of revelation was a sexual one – Fujiwara’s realisation of his own homosexuality.

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2/6: Un Tour d’Horizon by Kelly Schacht (2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale)

To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. In this, the second of six pieces, I look at a piece whose extent may not be immediately apparent in the gallery.

“Un Tour d’Horizon”

Installation and Performance, 2011

“Un Tour d’Horizon” – a French idiom having the meaning of a quick reflection upon the various perspectives of a topic. This is the exclamation made by a viewer upon experiencing this installation/performance work by Belgian artist Kelly Schacht.1 And, to that end, this work literally provides itself with a number of viewers of the ‘installation,’ thereby creating its own demonstration of a number of ‘perspectives.’ However, distinct from ourselves as an independent ‘audience’ per se, these viewers are part and parcel of the piece having been engaged by the artist to remain looking at the ‘installation.’ The ‘installation’ (in this case) being a layered set of minimal white sheets attached to the wall in front of the viewers.

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1/6: Adhãn by Haroon Mirza (2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale)

To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. First up: Haroon Mirza’s piece that is represented with a video in Shenzhen, but in reality is a rather complex installation, as I’ve tried to describe.

“Adhãn”

Installation, 2009

The elaborate installations of artist Haroon Mirza analyze the formation of sound and noise as a cultural and social mechanism as much as a mechanical one. The various parts of the piece Adhãn build into a work that touches on the way music and noise produce and communicate meaning in context with other objects. The cultural results of these productions of meaning hold particular significance for the artist, especially (as in this case) the role they play in religious and secular society.

Created following a visit to Pakistan in 2007–8, Adhãn reflects the artist’s research into the “uneasy role music plays in the Islamic faith”,1 the title referring to the call to prayer performed by the Muezzin, an official in a mosque. The installation is made up of seemingly disparate objects with their workings and formative elements insistently exposed, as is common in Mirza’s work. Various old items of furniture support or become part of the process of the piece, including a long, low cupboard with integral lamp at one end. Next to the cupboard sits a radio tuned to static, whose aerial pokes up into the canopy of the lamp. The lamp flickers in tandem with music coming from a small TV set at the other end of the cupboard, causing the radio’s interference to modulate in sync with these pulses. The TV is broadcasting an acoustic session by musician Cat Stevens from 1971, who famously converted to Islam some years after the recording, changing his name to Yusuf Islam in the process, so creating a direct link to the recent history of the Islamic faith within the piece.

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