mattin on improvisation

“Today, our crisis is not only an economic one but also a cultural one. If there is a practice that should acknowledge this, and be able to take this crisis as potential in its extreme fragility, it is improvisation. Out of this it will need to generate a form of agency that goes beyond the improviser’s self. It could resemble the general intellect that Théorie Communiste mentions, one that constantly questions its own parameters and undermines its own conventions without shying away from confrontation. Rather than experimenting with instruments it would be experimenting with our own selves, material conditions and broader social relations. This negative improvisation would accelerate situations to the point of mirroring our impossibilities and our limitations by producing situations where one is confronted with the negativity of our times. Out of this negativity this improvisation will try to generate a form of agency that would link freedom with collective rationality rather than with individual expression.”

—Mattin, “Improvisation and Communization”. In Marysia Lewandowska and Laurel Ptak (eds.), Undoing Property? (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013), pp.53–67.

Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life by Brandon LaBelle

“…but distraction often uncovers a surprising array of thoughts and feelings, epiphanies and meanings. Distraction may act as a productive model for recognizing all that surrounds the primary event of sound—to suddenly hear what is usually out of earshot. It allows or nurtures the ability for one to appreciate the sounding environment in all its dimensional complexity. Distraction may in the end function as means for undoing the lines of scripted space, loosening our sense for performing within a given structure, and according to certain expectations; to exceed or to fall short of the assumed goal. To be distracted is potentially to be more human.”

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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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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