Curated by Su Wei. Participating artists: Chen Shaoxiong, Chen Zhou, Li Qi, Li Ran, Liu Ding, Ma Liuming, Xing Danwen, Zhu Ming. At Star Gallery, Beijing
April 13 – May 16, 2013
In this inaugural exhibition for Star Gallery’s new Beijing space, curator Su Wei addresses certain perceived limitations in the discourse surrounding Chinese performance art. Drawing on the work of eight artists, the presentation avoids “formulated mechanisms,” Su writes, to specifically address works “irreducible to any classification within the historical process of aesthetics.” Su proposes that this can partly be accomplished by more fully addressing the original contexts of the performances: “It is impossible to [remove] the work of the artist from its site.”
Wang Yuyang’s set of disparate sculptural constructions that make up “Liner,” at Tang Contemporary, betray their design by computer in their fantastically ornate, mathematical shapes, spurs and swoops of material. They seem to express an aesthetic typically seen in the virtual shapes produced by CAD software. In the gallery they become slightly unreal or impractical forms: large cubes of marble are juxtaposed with jointed lengths of the same material, inserted with lengths of gleaming aluminium sheets; jagged wooden elements iterate and displace, their interlockings and overlappings forming a complex circular construction on the wall; a saddle-like construction is made up of multiple curved layers of hundreds of different materials proceeding in waves around the shape. A series of paintings accompany these sculptures, which seem to have been formulated by the same process, but when reduced to the flat surface of the canvas these works lose the “presence” in space that the sculptures effectively express.
VAVABOND playing as part of the Pangbianr Improv Meeting at School Bar
Some new samples taken from last night’s Pangbianr Improv Meeting, a regular Wednesday night event organised by Josh Feola and Lulu Chow from Pangbianr. I only stayed for the first two soloists, Li Jianhong and VAVABOND, both of whom I have written about on this blog before, usually playing together, and whose sounds I really like. Last night it was very evident that Li Jianhong’s playing is very expertly done, a lot of control in the sounds he is manipulating out of his guitar and effects pedals. Despite being VERY LOUD, Li’s sounds carried you along in their tow, making for a series of sequences which had some feeling of progression. VAVABOND’s set, on the other hand, was far more difficult to lose oneself in. Her staccato blasts of sound, endlessly forced you to PAY ATTENTION, with no respite into a consistency which might have allowed you to sit back and relax. Previous events have seen Li and VAVABOND play together (under the names “Vagus Nerve” or “Mind Fibre”), and it’s interesting to see the similarities and disparities in their styles when they are taken separately, as here. For all their differences of technique and instrument, it was possible last night to hear how they share a sonic aesthetic, in their disjunctive ways of arranging their sounds. Good stuff.
ZiZhiQu (Autonomous Regions) (curated by Hou Hanru)
Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou
19 January – 17 March, 2013
As one of the more visible providers of a critique of the centre/periphery model of cultural development in the early 2000’s, a new exhibition by curator Hou Hanru is highly anticipated. ZiZhiQu: Autonomous Regions at the Times Museum in Guangzhou can perhaps be seen to develop this model as it applies to the cultural self-formation of individuals and groups, placing that development in contrast to a globalised institutionalisation of culture. Autonomy, then, moves across all scales in its realisation. ZiZhiQu presents expressions of autonomy at the level of the personal via the body, as well as the extension of personal autonomy into ideology and geography. In the process this show covers imaginary and real sites of the development and expression of this individual and communal state of being. This show’s tread is necessarily light, as the subject of autonomy quickly enters fraught territory in relation to specific realisations of the autonomous body in society, or its geographical presence.
These new works by Zhan Wang continue his explorations of the nature of the universe and the forms that make up our understanding of it. Long March’s galleries have been divided into two areas, which might be characterized as a light space and a dark space. The light space presents floor- and wall-mounted panels of smashed rocks painstakingly recreated in the artist’s signature stainless steel, along with a centerpiece block of resin holding the ghosted shape of another rock suspended within it. On the ceiling, a spotlight punches through a small opening so that, on the other (dark) side, a cone of light crosses the room, catching motes of dust in its beam. Aside from this penetration, the dark space simply presents two small video monitors, stacked on top of each other behind a column. One shows a rock suspended in deep blue ocean waters, and the other the documentation of how this first video was produced (by attaching a camera rig to the rock and dropping both into the sea).
Art can tell us something about its world, and at the same time it can tell us something about our world. Aside from what we ourselves bring to the table, the artwork can do this by being clear or opaque in its meaning, both experiences worthwhile in their unique ways. However, where the artwork is opaque or self-absorbed, if it cannot or will not provide a space for the viewer to relate to it, this then becomes problematic. There is a suspicion that Wang Mai’s new exhibition, with its complex symbolic objects and imagery, no matter how visually interesting an experience it might be, is problematic in this way.
Five monumental structures are distributed around the gallery space, coated in slicks of pigment. These multi-coloured, yet muted, painted surfaces have taken on the turbulent patterns of weather systems, or of ink in water. Despite their geometric shapes, the surfaces have a plastic quality, giving an organic effect to the objects. On the floor on one side of each of these monuments stands a tripod, supporting a vertical, tubular arrangement of hard-edged gold or silver tubes, but with additions of hand-formed plastic or clay elements in day-glo colours formed inside or around them. The polished metal, and neon colours, of these tubular structures stand out in contrast to the generally darker palette of the monuments against which they stand.