艺术界LEAP: Zhan Wang – Form of the Formless

Long March Space, Beijing

2012.10.26–2012.12.02

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).

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ArtSlant: Form is the Most Political?

Liu Wei solo show

Long March Space, 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing

1 September – 7 October, 2012

Long March Space present a strong body of new works by Liu Wei, which seem to progressively build upon and develop various aspects of this artist’s works. The results suggest monumentality in their occupation of space while retaining an uncertainty in their inability to be defined and interpreted. This opacity of the pieces is apparently mirrored by the reticence of the artist to elaborate on them too specifically. This is aside from some general statements made by him and his gallery to accompany this show, which seem questionable in the context of the work.

Liu Wei is lauded as an important artist in the Chinese artworld, and to an extent deserves that accolade. He has developed various patterns for his artwork, which he has committed to and has honed over time. Liu Wei produces work that seems intelligent and thought through, providing a serious basis on which the artworld can place a certain amount of trust that—unlike many artists in China—he will not undermine that solid base with some random change of direction.

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alternative BJ – project work

I think in general it’s an interesting question: what is alternative? It’s obviously completely relative to the established situation. I think the way things are at the moment in Beijing, that means working around the profound commercialisation of the majority of presentations that are currently taking place.

So, if I was asked to point someone in the direction of ‘alternative’ spaces in Beijing, where would I send them?

My first thought would be the Arrow Factory, a project space located in an old hutong shop front. And why do I think of this as alternative? Because it’s one of the few spaces which leaves behind the established art zones (798, Dashanzi, the Liquor Factory), and is also determinedly non-commercial.

I think project work in general and specifically the kind of things Arrow Factory are presenting, are some of the most interesting thing happening in the visual arts in Beijing at the moment. By ‘project’ I mean to go beyond producing just a set of products which fit nicely into the ultra-commercialised environment we have here at the moment. The gallery I look after also concentrates on projects, with an internal definition of working with the artists to make the most of their ideas, supporting them however we can, allowing them to develop their ideas in new presentations that may be within or outside the space itself. Other spaces like Long March, Arario and Joy Art (wow, they don’t have a website) also have this kind of vision, I think.

Another interesting space, although technically from Guangzhou, is Vitamin Creative Space. They are currently showing their ‘SHOP’ project here in Beijing after its debut at London’s Frieze Art Fair. Now this piece seems to throw the commercialism back in your face – it is a shop after all, positively revelling in the commercial status of the works on display, but by doing so you feel that there is an implicit critique going on of that structure from which the ‘SHOP’ gains it’s everyday meaning and rôle.

But I don’t think I’m being naïve or overly idealistic, even given the situation we are in at the moment. We all have to make money somehow, not least the artists, so I’m not talking about rejecting saleability altogether (unless that is your particular schtick). I’m just trying to make a case for seeing other meanings for artworks than an immediate call to their capital value, which in my experience has tended to lead to lack of innovation and staleness in recent Chinese contemporary art, as it has done elsewhere in the world at different moments.

With project work you have a kind of commitment to the artwork which seems to be one way to define ‘alternative’ at this moment in Beijing, as it’s not that common yet, or perhaps it’s just that good results are rare to find.

As an afternote, it will be interesting to see how things develop with the global financial downturn, and what this means for ‘alternatives’.

Beautiful New World

I’ve finally been able to post shots of the artists’ work from Beautiful New World: Contemporary Visual Culture from Japan, the show which my fiancée has been working on.The show was split over three venues in the 798 Art District in Beijing, Long March Space, Tokyo Gallery and Inter Gallery. Each venue presented works under a different theme within the Beautiful New World concept. Long March Space presented ‘Beautiful Real World,’ Inter Gallery ‘New Media World’ and Tokyo Gallery ‘End of the World and Future World.’

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Ujino Muneteru performance

The Japanese artist Ujino Muneteru performing at the opening night of the Beautiful New World exhibition at Long March Space, Beijing.

His accumulation of practical, everyday-life objects all are representatives of the tangible in our life. However, he experiments with the double-dimensions of those materials by creating also an intangible effect, namely sounds.