Critical Music series: Interview with Sheng Jie (part 2)

This is the second and final part of the interview with Sheng Jie (aka gogoj), discussing her activities as a visual artist and experimental musician in China. Link to the first part of the interview.

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Critical Music series: Interview with Sheng Jie (part 1)

This is a new series of posts for this blog focusing on individuals, groups, or organisations that have played notable roles in the history of critical music practices in China. These practices appears in many different guises, often described as “experimental music” or “sound art”, neither of which is entirely satisfactory in describing the practices which often exist in many hybrid forms. My adoption of the term “critical music” (following the writings of G Douglas Barrett) attempts to avoid the limitations of these terms, while highlighting the active nature of the sound component of the practices. These posts will primarily take the form of interviews, each one aiming to place the subject within the general history of critical music practices in China, and contextualise their current practice within their overall development.

Sheng Jie (aka gogoj) is a visual artist and musician based in Beijing. Much of her current experimental music and sound work reflects her study of the violin and cello, as well as of video and performance art. Since returning to Beijing from college in France in 2005, she has been developing various forms of audio/visual performance using these elements. Recently she has begun incorporating a gesture-based computer interface that allows her to “manually” manipulate her video and audio signals on stage. In this interview she talks about her practice and how it has developed, her relationship with the music and art worlds in Beijing, and why she adopted this gesture interface. The interview covers a lot of ground, and so has been split over two days for convenience. Part two will be published on this blog tomorrow.

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ArtSlant: Tang Reaches for the Stars

Tracing the Milky Way: Chen Zhen, Huang Yong Ping, Shen Yuan, Wang Du, Yan Pei-Ming, Yang Jiechang

Tang Contemporary, Gate No.2, 798 Art District, Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

26 March – 14 May, 2011

It may seem contrary, but I can’t ignore how new or renovated art spaces affect the way works are shown and received, as well as how they represent a gallery’s plans and priorities. Any conclusions drawn remain highly speculative, but in the physical remains left behind by the development process, the choices made and priorities focused upon as manifest in the physical spaces, we can perhaps gain some insight into the nature of a gallery.

Thai gallery Tang Contemporary originally opened their Beijing space in 2006 and have occupied their site with a series of large-scale installations and commissions. One in particular which stands out for me was Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Freedom in 2009, which seemed to push the space to an extreme, saturating the structure in gallons of water from its serpentine fire-hose. Although not necessarily a consequence of this piece, at the end of 2010 Tang made the traumatic leap of gutting the space and starting again from scratch.

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hubris

Breaking Forecast: 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation Artists is a groundbreaking exhibition presenting new and recent works by the most compelling emerging and mid-career artists working throughout China today: Cao Fei, Chu Yun, Liu Wei, MadeIn, Qiu Zhijie, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Yang Fudong and Zheng Guogu. The first of its kind, the exhibition affirms UCCA’s dedication to supporting the development of Chinese art. Combining genres of painting, performance, photography, video and installation, this exhibition will define the future of Chinese contemporary art for years to come. [emphasis mine]

And “emerging” is always a tricky word to define, too.

It’s not that I don’t recognise that this is an interesting group of artists (and, in my opinion, it’s always good to see more of Chu Yun), and we’ve all been guilty of the odd bit of hyperbole in our time, but that last sentence…

The self-aggrandisement that’s coming through in this piece, and the way UCCA are presenting the artists in this text, actually seems to be using them as a side-line to UCCA’s own historical positioning statements – and of course that’s exactly the (overt or covert) purpose of exhibitions (and—by association—the artists involved in those exhibitions). My issue is not with the uses to which exhibitions (or artists) can be put, but with this wording that seems to revel in this programme. At the end of the day, it’s quite exciting to find a text which is so blatant about this.

To be fair to UCCA, my issues with them deserve a more considered post, but this particular press release was too galling to let slip by.