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.
Curating needs a bit of a shake down in China. The term has become a cliché to describe pretty much any situation in which one can point to a modicum of organisation, and is often characterised as a perfunctory look at the issues raised. Seminars that take a long hard look at the subject, and successfully integrate local and international resources and audiences, are also pretty rare in this context. So, despite the Summer heat in Guangzhou, we couldn’t refuse the invitation of the Guangdong Times Museum to attend their “No Ground Underneath: Curating on the Nexus of Changes” which brought together practitioners from near and far in an extended forum over three days of intensive presentations and discussions.
Nikita Yingqian Cai, curator of the Times Museum, in collaboration with the seemingly ubiquitous independent curator and critic Carol Yinghua Lu, co-curated this event as a prelude to a new series of books on the general subject of curation, to be published by the Museum beginning later this year.
MATHAF Arab Museum of Modern Art, near Education City, Doha, Qatar
5 December, 2011 – 26 May, 2012
Cai Guo-Qiang’s work straddles a sometimes-uncomfortable line between spectacle and meaning. Saraab, the overall title of his blockbuster solo show at MATHAF in Doha, and its “explosion event” in the desert nearby, translates from the Arabic as “mirage” in a wholly appropriate allusion – officially to the subject matter of the works, but perhaps unintentionally to the effect of the heavy symbolism that Cai employs.
The artist had been invited by MATHAF to create a new series of seven large-scale installations. Alongside these a representative selection of older works provided an overview of the artist’s trajectory. The depth of material available in the show created a unique opportunity to fully appreciate the artist’s work, demonstrating in many ways that it has remained remarkably consistent over the years.
Pékin Fine Arts, No.241 Cao Chang Di Village, Cui Ge Zhuang, Chaoyang District, Beijing
3 Sept – 16 Oct, 2011
Chasing Sites is a relatively sedate presentation for artist Weng Wei, focusing on her ink paintings on rectangles of paper and cutouts affixed to clearly delimited sections of the gallery walls. These new works and their installation in Pékin Fine Arts have calmed the spontaneity of her earlier appearances, and this aspect of spontaneity—instigated in part by the precarious conditions under which she was then working—she now treats with some ambivalence. This show has become a critique of those conditions, with the new works as close readings of past installations, rationalisations of the things which she looked for from those venues but which she feels were lacking.
Artists organizing events around the disparate interests of people outside the art world proper can lead to some fascinating convergences of concerns. (Of course, a deft hand is needed to satisfy the demands of such varied constituencies). Emi Uemura’s “Country Fair,” initiated last year in Beijing with Vitamin Creative Space, is a successful example. A regular event bringing together farmers, community activists, and the public in a friendly, festive space, it shows what can grow from the sharing of information, experience and perhaps most importantly, food.
I just received the new edition of LEAP 艺术界 magazine with my piece about alternative artists working in Beijing. The article didn’t come through too badly, though they had to cut 4 of my interviews because of space restrictions.