REVIEW: MIJI Concert #39 at Meridian Space 21/9/16

This review was originally published in Chinese on the Sub Jam wechat account, on the 30th of November 2016. Thanks to Yan Jun and Yan Yulong for their support, and to 白杨 and 黄山 for translation.

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For the experimental music community in Beijing, each month holds the promise of another MIJI Concert. Organised since 2011 by various members associated with the Sub Jam record label, MIJI Concert is now in its 39th edition. This event has managed to survive in a city that has become less than fertile ground for experimental creative productions over the past few years with the closure of a number of venues that would host such events; MIJI is now one of the few regular events for such practical research into sound and music. Since edition 18 MIJI has found a home at the Meridian Space, located in a small creative cluster behind the National Art Museum of China not far from the Forbidden City in central Beijing. The long, thin, upstairs room in which it takes place is perhaps inhospitable for regular styles of performance, but within an experimental context provides an ideal foil for the artists. The quality of the space helps to work against divisions between performer and audience, so the physical relationship between them is always under negotiation – dependant on things like the equipment being used, the style of performance, and the nerve of the audience members. Last week’s MIJI Concert 39 was a case in point, with four pieces making various uses of the space, setting up different experiences of the performers’ relationship between themselves and with the audience.

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Frieze website: Liu Wei at White Cube

Liu Wei

White Cube, Mason’s Yard, London

Liu Wei rose to prominence in China in the early 2000s with a diverse practice encompassing painting, photography and sculpture, often presented with a touch of humour. His solo show at White Cube focused on recent sculpture and installation pieces that demonstrated the artists professed move away from figuration but which, in the process, seemed to lose some of the agility that characterised the artist’s earlier practice.

Liu presented works from three distinct series that were organised over the two floors of the gallery. Dominating the basement gallery floor stood six geometric sculptures (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, from the ‘Density’ series, 2013) – including a cube, a ball, and other less specific shapes, the larger pieces looming over the visitor. These works used layers of cut books to form their off-white surfaces; the Chinese characters printed on the books’ pages still visible along the cut edges. This paper lent a material softness to the sculptures that contrast with the hard-edged, abstract shapes they formed.

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ArtReview Asia: Xu Tan – Questions, Soil and ‘Socio-Botanic’

Xu Tan: Questions, Soil and ‘Socio-Botanic’

Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou

19 August – 22 November

Displaying a long-term commitment to his practice, most visible for the last six years in the ongoing Keywords Project, Guangzhou-based Xu Tan chooses to address both the detail as well as the ‘bigger picture’ of cultural and social change through his works. His current solo show in Guangzhou’s Vitamin Creative Space, titled Questions, Soil and ‘Socio-Botanic,’ shifts the subject matter from language—as demonstrated by Keywords—to issues of the conceptual and legal construction of the social landscape.

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ArtAsiaPacific: Yu Honglei at Magician Space, Beijing

“Everything is Extremely Important: There is Nothing That Will Not Come Back Again”

Yu Honglei solo exhibition, curated by Aimee Lin @ Magician Space, 798 Art District, Beijing, China

12 July – 8 September, 2013

By Edward Sanderson

Various objects and constructions are dispersed around the first room of “Everything is Extremely Important: There is Nothing That Will Not Come Back Again,” Yu Honglei’s solo exhibition at Magician Space. It is assumed that each is intentionally chosen and arranged, and as such suggests that they are imbued with meaning. Yet in Yu’s presentation, while objects and assemblages tempt interpretation, their meanings are left resolutely unclear—never quite fulfilling the viewer’s efforts to read them.

A low barrier perforated with a brickwork pattern is coated in a lumpy, clay-like material with two digital clocks, displaying identical times, inserted in the gaps. On the other side of the room, a similar barrier is laden with the same shapeless material this time supporting a light bulb and fitting. Towards the back wall two sky-blue wooden beams (reportedly from an “ancient building”) stand upright on tripods, with stuffed budgerigars clinging to their surface. A low, black, wooden box stands to one side, with two black porcelain cat figurines perched neatly on top.

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ArtSlant: Branding a New Generation of International Artists

Hugo Boss Asia Art – Award for Emerging Artists exhibition

Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China

13 September – 8 December, 2013

Art’s relationship with branding sees a new incarnation with the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award, produced in collaboration with the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai and in this first instance addressing itself to artists from what is termed the “Greater China” region.

The Hugo Boss Asia Art Award creates a new geographical focus for the fashion brand, running in parallel with the original “Hugo Boss Prize” which began in 1996. The seven short-listed artists for this award have already developed strong bodies of work, and one of the strengths of this show is that many of the artists’ presentations are retrospective in nature. Hsu Chia Wei from Taipei, Kwan Sheung Chi from Hong Kong, Li Liao from Shenzhen, and Hu Xiangqian and Li Wei from Beijing all present a selection of work from across their careers. On the other hand, rather than presenting older extant examples of their work in this context, Lee Kit from Hong Kong and BIRDHEAD from Shanghai, have created large-scale installations that build on previous works.

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Yishu Journal: A Potent Force – Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan

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Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai
January 26–March 31, 2013

Under the all-embracing title of A Potent Force, curator Karen Smith presented the work of the Chinese artists Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan at Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum. Each artist was accorded two floors in which they were represented by a broad selection of works produced mainly since 2008. The umbrella title led one to perhaps expect some explicit connections between the two artists, but, for me, it was their differing backgrounds, styles, and sensibilities that came to be highlighted by their close proximity.

Taking the title as an indicator of her vision, Smith suggested that the phrase “A Potent Force” was designed “to intone the lyrical, introspective, and sentient intellectual process that characterizes these two subtle plays with painting (Duan Jianyu) and conceptual video and installation (Hu Xiaoyuan).”1 Smith proposed that this “force” “references the nature of both artists’ analysis of the world as they experience it.”2 The title, then, acted to express a general quality that resonated between the two artists’ work rather than a specific stylistic, formal, or conceptual attribute.

Smith describes A Potent Force as expressing “the force of socio-cultural shift in the margin of age that separates these two artists, which is underscored by the atmosphere in which they passed their formative years.”3 The “margin” she refers to here is the cusp between the differing experiences that mark the two artists’ generations – Duan Jianyu having been born in 1970 and Hu Xiaoyuan in 1977. As with many aspects of society in China’s recent history, such an apparently short period of time can represent the advent of massive social changes.

In the catalogue for the exhibition, Smith introduces Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan’s background and practices before approaching the artists individually, and she acknowledges their differences by characterizing them as “two strongly individual artists”4 and (regarding their productions) as displaying “unrelated approaches to expression: two distinct languages.”5 Smith characterizes Hu Xiaoyuan as “belonging to a generation that is past cynicism, and no longer cares so earnestly,”6 pitting these characteristics against those of Duan Jianyu’s – that Duan Jianyu’s generation remains cynical and (yet) still cares “earnestly.”

Smith seems to be arguing that the connection between Duan Jianyu and Hu Xiaoyuan is related to the concurrence of the periods in which they grew up and developed their practices. The respective eras in which the two artists were born, Smith proposes, mark two sides of a dividing line between one generation and the next. It appears that Smith aims to cast this generational “margin” as a focus of the exhibition, located in between these two artists’ productions.

[To read the full article, please pick up a copy of the Journal or visit the Yishu website]

ArtSlant: An Act of Critique

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Us and Institution, Us as Institution

Guangdong Times Museum, Times Rose Garden, Huang Bian Bei Lu, Bai Yun Da Dao, Guangzhou, China

29 July – 11 August, 2013

As the various flavours of institutional critique have now become “institutionalised” as part of the practice of contemporary artists, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back curated by Biljana Ciric at the Guangdong Times Museum in Guangzhou aims to reassess the origins, methodologies and effects of this practice.

It can be said that One Step Forward… builds on the work of the curatorial team within the Times Museum (and those of its invited curators) since its formal opening in 2009. They have approached their practice with a self-awareness that has consistently led to exhibitions, symposia, and publications that have productively investigated the ideas and roles of the institution as a structural body within the art system – in a way performing their own institutional critique through their daily work.

This exhibition deliberately moves the focus away from a canon of western artists associated with the development of institutional critique, onto artists and groups from other parts of the world who develop out of it and/or trace parallel trajectories to it.

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