ArtSlant: A Meeting of Meetings

The Meeting Room: Elaine Ho & Rania Ho

Arrow Factory, 38 Jianchang Hutong, Beijing 100007

8 November – 31 December, 2012

The Meeting Room is a project hosted within Beijing’s Arrow Factory space, and organised by artists Rania Ho, one of the founders of that space, and Elaine Ho (no relation), founder of the HomeShop, a small creative community sited a few streets away. With this new project, the concerns of the two artists previously expressed through their work on their particular institutions, have come together to form a very interesting and socially productive use of the space – converting it into bookable space for meetings, which over the last month has come to naturally reflect the major and minor concerns of the participants in the meetings.

Both the Arrow Factory and HomeShop tend to be lumped together under the rubric of “the alternative” within the Chinese art world, but have somewhat different concerns and ways of working. I have written about each institution before on ArtSlant.com, but to summarise (and drastically generalise as they are in fact quite complex entities): Arrow Factory is a response to commercial art spaces, taking aspects of the gallery format and usurping their functions, in one way by closing the space off to access; HomeShop is a host community for a number of artists and creatives. Both institutions share a methodology by geographically and conceptually distancing themselves from the art districts of Beijing, and in part confront issues with their own role in their local, non-art communities.

In a sense the Arrow Factory space is still closed off, in that The Meeting Room has converted it into a bookable space for meetings, but this aspect of open access to the use of the space means the boundaries have been made publically and socially somewhat permeable. Whereas before the installations in Arrow Factory were designed to be viewed through the glass doors but not entered, these meetings allow for a placement in the space of the members of the groups, while the meetings themselves are then objectified and made viewable to passers-by by virtue of this same glazed façade.

Continue reading

ArtSlant: Noise and Context

The Sound of Nowhere

Various sites around Dongcheng District, Beijing

5 – 12 June, 2011

Like any art form, creative activity that involves sound has a relationship with the world as a production and with an audience as reception. Both relationships have different expectations and requirements for whatever might be termed “success.”

The often ephemeral form of sound work dictates that it must assert itself in a stronger way to ensure its reception as in some way distinct from the “distractions” it works within. The concert hall, for instance, not only provides a hermetic, purpose-built environment for the perception of sound, but—as with the gallery—it creates a psychological space devoted to sound, which prepares the audience to receive the material.

As visual art has its idealised environments in the white/grey/black cubes, and must negotiate new tactics of reception upon leaving those spaces, so sound encounters a potentially hostile, but promisingly productive terrain upon entering the outside world. This boundary between the sound work and the world is a fertile creative ground for the artist, on which the work can take any position, and which creates the relationship with the audience and their understanding of how the work fits into the environment. This might be described, referring back to visual arts, as its “framing,” which include not just the physical details of the environment, but the institutional structures around the pieces.

In the case of The Sound of Nowhere, the environment is made up of the collection of this particular set of pieces in a group show with this particular name and provenance; the (rather nicely designed) handout guiding the audience to the sites; the background information about the artists and works provided.

Sound’s ephemeral nature perhaps encourages me to focus on these “extraneous” details in the appreciation of the work. The organisers themselves stress “the processes of the search, discovery, listening to and/or taking in.” The works in The Sound of Nowhere are widely dispersed around the hutongs of Beijing’s Dongcheng District and work with these constraints and conditions as part of their being in the world.

Continue reading

当代艺术与投资《社会食物:植村绘美》 Contemporary Art & Investment “Social Food: Emi Uemura”

There’s an Interesting edition of Contemporary Art & Investment out this month with, amongst other things, a feature on “Plants as a Kind of Art Relationshipology” (sic) for which I was asked to write a new piece about Emi Uemura and her work. This piece sits after a rather fine piece by Michael Eddy which gives a broader view of her practice.

Social Food: Emi Uemura

Through a number of discussions with Emi Uemura, alongside the more obvious subject matter, I’ve come to understand her work as dealing with a boundary between art and life that is forever friable and purposely undefined. I see her taking this position to prevent barriers either to the works’ appreciation or to the applicability of the work. Her subject matter highlights the raw materials of life—our food—and the processes of its production and delivery, but also the significance of our every-day decisions about it. Indeed “the every-day” may be seen as a consistent theme running through her work, an awareness of the unconscious, unremarked actions influenced by our environments and which are part of the bedrock of society. Although her works deal with “big” issues, the environment, organic food, etc. they deliberately try to stay small in scale and demonstrate a lightness of touch, keeping the effects on a personal level.

Continue reading

ArtSlant: Growing Pains

HomeShop, Jiaodaokoubei2tiao 8, Dongcheng District, 10007 Beijing, China

A concern with the “everyday” happens to coincide for two of Beijing’s experimental spaces: both Vitamin Creative Space (whose Pavilion I addressed previously on ArtSlant) and HomeShop see it as grist to their mills. This past December, HomeShop moved into their new premises in a former Danwei dormitory in central Beijing. This move took place amidst an ongoing self-analysis of the relationship of their activities with the everyday and the sustainability of their practice.

Continue reading

CHINA DAILY: Catalysts for creativity

China Daily logo

Until recently, Beijing has mostly lacked the facilities for the growing number of people who work on their own or in small groups, without regular offices, but who see the social and inspirational value of working alongside like-minded people.

Co-working is one solution to this need. In Beijing there is now a handful of such spaces or groups, which have grown up over the past year offering facilities and community to the capital’s telecommuters.

Continue reading

ArtSlant: Busy Beehive

Review of The Third Party Part 1: How to Be Alone (or nowhere else am I safe from the question: why here?)

Platform China, 319-1 East End Art Zone A, Caochangdi Village, 100015 Beijing, China

November 11, 2010 – November 30, 2010

Developing quite a reputation as a space which encourages experimentation in their shows, Platform China currently have two shows which in their own ways leave some breathing space in the works and the formats of presentation – a rare and noteworthy situation within the oftentimes banal Beijing gallery environment.

In Platform’s Caochangdi space right now their upstairs gallery is devoted to a solo show by Chinese artist Jin Shan, presenting his mercurial series of mini-videos “One Man’s Island” as a scattered installation of monitors and projections, marking out a complex space with these recordings of the artists minor activities. But the focus of this review is actually downstairs, in a smaller room to one side of the entrance, where a rather heartening group show has been installed, which literally and theoretically opens up a space for a physical negotiation with the works on display and for discussion around them.

Continue reading

ArtSlant: Reflections on Beijing’s Edible Art

reviewing recent food work in Beijing

Beijingers are famed for their obsession with food, but with all this food so readily available in the capital it’s easy to forget the complex production and distribution chains involved. So it’s interesting that artist Rikrit Tiravanija was in Beijing at the beginning of the year with a solo show at Tang Contemporary. The preparation of food for the public has become a trademark of Tiravanija’s work and serves to play with social and institutional divisions, and had a pivotal role in the development of Relational Aesthetics in the late ‘90s. In this iteration Tiravanija set up a stall providing the Chinese breakfast of doufu nao (豆腐脑) to the public.

What might be called responses to this historical precedent have recently been seen in Beijing, an example being the communal food-making and meals organised by Elaine W. Ho as part of the HomeShop project. The most recent food-based activity organised by HomeShop took place in September as part of NO+CH Open Studio Camp for which custom designed “bags-cum-picnic-mats” and a mobile tower of Baozi were produced. The focus is not so much on the food in these cases, as the fact that they “outline other forms of social space.”

In cooperation with Japanese artist Emi Uemura, Elaine has also presented the more conceptual food-based activity Chain-letter Dinner, which took place as part of the “also Space2” curated by Reinaart Vanhoe in May at C-Space Gallery. Chain-Letter Dinner used crowd-sourced recipes to create impromptu meals in the Gallery’s kitchen by and for whoever happened to be present.

Mobile Container Garden at the shop

For Emi, her observation that “…in front of food people are very open and have discussions,” has served as a fertile ground for her work. Bento Delivery (in collaboration with Vitamin Creative Space), delivered home-made Bento boxes to office workers in the CBD to draw attention to the food delivery systems that normally go unremarked when we pop out of the office at lunchtime to grab a bite to eat.

When Vitamin’s the shop relocated to a rather stark Ai Weiwei-designed building in Beijing’s Caochangdi, Emi created the Mobile Container Garden which performs the process of growing vegetables in wheeled styrofoam boxes, allowing this splintered garden to temporarily occupy parts of the site. From this work (literally) grew the Calendar Restaurant, “a restaurant that only opens when the products grow in Mobile Garden.”

Announcement for Emi Uemura’s Country Fair

And on the 27 November at Studio-X, Emi is organising the second of her Country Fairs bringing together artists, farmers and community activists to sell produce and discuss the issues around their work. For Emi “this Fair is for people to share opinions about local organic produce and discover ways to support local farmers.”

Bake Shop at Arrow Factory.

Organised by Arrow Factory, “Bake Shop” has been taking place every weekend for the last month at their hutong storefront space. The tiny space is usually only viewable from the street, but for this event it was thrown open to the public with “artisan home baking enthusiasts purvey[ing] their handmade cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes, breads and coffee.”

Bake Shop: Arrow Factory founder and artist Wang Wei makes fresh coffee provided by artist Michael Yuen.

One of the founders of the Arrow Factory, Rania Ho suggests “…this is an experiment, in part to see what happens when a space which is completely non-commercial appears to become a shop. Our space has always been a reaction and commentary on the environment, the people who live in the area and who inform what we see and buy there.”

In their various ways, all these projects serve to create what Emi Uemura calls a “platform … to explore the relations of individuals, different social groups and networks with the intention of mixing them together.” And as Elaine W. Ho says, in many cases they “…are not artworks at all, but simply being aesthetically interested to understand/instigate naturally engaged exchanges, or ways of coming together and being together.”

Country Fair (Emi Uemura): 27 Nov, Saturday at Studio-X
Market starts: 10:00–16:00
Round-table talk and map-making : 13:00–15:00
Address: A103, 46 Fangjia Hutong, Andingmen Inner Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100007 China
Contact: +86 10 6402 8682
Website: http://www.arch.columbia.edu/studiox/events

HomeShop
Address: Xiaojingchang Hutong 6, off Guloudong Dajie, Beijing, 100009 China
Website: http://www.homeshopbeijing.org/

Arrow Factory (Rania Ho, Pauline Yao, Wang Wei)
Address: 38 Jianchang Hutong, off Guozijian Jie, Beijing, 100007 China
Website: http://www.arrowfactory.org.cn/

Author: Edward Sanderson