ArtSlant: Rupture of Form and Meaning

Liner – Wang Yuyang solo show

Tang Contemporary, 798 Art District, Beijing

23 March – 30 April, 2013

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.

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ArtSlant: All in the Family

Why do we do useless things? Irrelevant Commission curated by Qiu Xunlin

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

24 March – 29 April, 2012

a work by Ye Nan

Two week ago I reviewed Wang Du’s aircraft carrier, sitting in Tang Contemporary’s main spaces, and this week I am returning the same gallery but moving my attention to the group show running alongside, this being the second appearance of the Irrelevant Commission in Beijing.

I was lucky to catch the first appearance of Irrelevant Commission, in their self-organised show ‘We Are Irrelevant Commission’ (curated by Gu Jing) at the Miao Pu Art District, but I remember at the time being troubled by the meaning of this group. Although they are forthright in their self-presentation as a group, I wondered if their chosen name was perhaps an indication of the value (or lack of value) they place on the idea of a group. Their major claim to collectivity was that they all graduated from the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou within a year or two of each other (from 2006–2008). In terms of their work, there was apparently little to connect them, neither in terms of style, content, or theory. So this could perhaps be classed as a institutional grouping, but beyond that this first group show held no particular stylistic cohesion, no clearly expressed curatorial framework, and—although individually there were some nice pieces—there was not enough to really get to grips with or to pull together for a review (speaking for myself).

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ArtSlant: Battleship Museum

Wang Du: Musée d’Art Contemporain de la Chine

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

24 March – 30 April, 2012

Wang Du thinks big, and his new piece, a model of a split and rusting aircraft carrier hulk, purportedly presents his proposal for a suitably grandiose Chinese Museum of Contemporary Art. Wang’s installation could be taken for a monument to a megalomaniac architect’s visionary plans, or—as he suggests—a country’s obsessive statecraft through the building of overpowering structures.

But I see this installation not as a model that looks beyond itself to a completed form. For me the stress remains on this mass of iron as a sculpture in its own right. It does not represent a proposed thing anymore, this is not about projections into the future, but about the nature of the desire’s represented through the object as it stands. The artist makes this clear by referencing the use of museums as powerful tools of diplomacy, physical embodiments of ideology, and manifestations of propaganda. The model is as much representative of this as any completed structure.

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ArtSlant: Lady Liberty and a Dragon

Happy New Year: Wang Qingsong solo show

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

17 December, 2011 – 25 February, 2012

Photography seems to be the perfect medium for Wang Qingsong’s monumentally theatrical set pieces. In his overblown symbolic constructions and groups of people, the artist addresses issues of both a general and personal nature. In the gallery, these are presented as lush, large-format photographs allowing the artist’s attention to detail in the settings to be held static in front of our eyes for detailed attention. In the spaces of Tang Contemporary the artist is now presenting two set pieces, as well as the photographs, to the audience, which leads to the realisation that the extra dimensions may not benefit the works.

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ArtSlant: Muddled Illuminations

He An: Wind Light As a Thief

Arrow Factory, 38 Jianchang Hutong (off Guozijian Jie), Beijing, 100007 China

3 July – 20 August, 2011

He An’s new installation at the store-front space Arrow Factory, is the first in a series of shows in Beijing for the Chinese artist: Tang Contemporary and Magician Space hosting shows opening this week in the 798 Art District. The installation at Arrow Factory continues the artist’s concern with lighting systems and sees a working streetlight poking through the glass of the gallery’s frontage. Below the light a small switch invites you to turn the light on and off. Behind the glass, inside the inaccessible gallery, the streetlight is broken up into short sections to fit into the confined space and snakes across the floor before disappearing into the back wall on which a black, schematic painting of rings and linking lines has been applied.

In reality this is only a third of the installation, there being another two parts nearby which the painting seems to direct the audience to. “Some 500 meters away” a shop’s lights have also been connected to system, and in another, undisclosed location another light is to be found. All these instances of lights have their respective switches, forming some kind of symbiotic lighting system that extends the reach of each flick of the switches.

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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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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