Yishu Journal: Nutrition Spaces (Vitamin, Guangzhou and Beijing)

“Edward Sanderson speaks with Zhang Wei and Hu Fang about discovering ways of working within a private gallery that fosters an experience of art that is more than mere consumerism.”

An expanded appreciation of the gallery environment and its players, with a particular emphasis on the nature and expression of the physical and perceptual spaces that make up that environment, plays a significant role in the thinking and activities of Vitamin, a Guangzhou- and Beijing-based art organization. In its activities, Vitamin recognizes and utilizes these spaces through interaction with implied psychological and spiritual attributes that create an invisible energy, and that act as productive elements in the relationships among artist, artwork, and audience.

Zhang Wei and artistic director Hu Fang established Vitamin and opened Vitamin Creative Space, in 2002, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Over the ten years of its existence, Vitamin has become relatively well established in the Chinese art scene as well as internationally by its presence at art fairs and through its projects and publications carried out with practitioners from both inside and outside its home territory. Its broad range of activities, exhibitions, events, and publications, and the often idiosyncratic nature of many of them, allow Vitamin to retain a feeling of informality, experimentation, and playfulness within a formalized gallery system.

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ArtSlant: Eliasson’s Essentials

The Pavilion, Vitamin Creative Space, 2503-B-Building 2, Northern District, Pingod Community, No.32 Baiziwan Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100022, China

May, 2012 –

Reflecting Vitamin Creative Space’s approach to the artwork as a “daily activity,” the four pieces by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson currently installed in their Beijing space (The Pavilion) are not quite an exhibition – there was no formal opening and no general announcement made, and there is no official end date to the show. Such an arrangement is part of Vitamin’s way of leaving space for the public to discover the works in conditions that strengthen their place in the world rather than as idealised art objects removed from it, potentially leading to more meaningful experiences with them.

This rather quixotic mode of presentation is reflected in the location of The Pavilion itself, perched on the top, 25th floor of an “art district” on the southern periphery of Beijing’s CBD. The relative inaccessibility of The Pavilion—there are no signs indicating its presence, you need to phone up for entry to the building, and the room is un-signposted and unannounced behind a standard white door at the end of a nondescript corridor—serves to place it in strange relation to its aims at engaging with “daily life.” This daily life came up a lot in a conversation I had recently with Zhang Wei, the founder of the space and her staff. On the level of a business, Vitamin seem to place themselves in something of a mid-point between acknowledging their role as a commercial gallery and as something akin to a non-profit space which might allow them to work with the art free from market constraints – something their ethos of “daily life” seems to embody.

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ArtSlant: Abstraction in Context

Breaking Away – an Abstract Art Exhibition: Chen Yufan, Ding Yi, Gong Jian, Guan Fengdong, Hou Yong, Huang Rui, Jiang Fang, Jiang Zhi, Liang Quan, Liu Wei, Xie Molin, Xu Hongmin, Yan Lei, Yang Liming, Zhang Enli, Zhan Rui, Zhang Wei, Zhong Shan, Zhao Gang

Boers-Li Gallery, I-706 Hou Jie, 798 Art District, No.2 Hou Yuan, Jiuxianqiao Lu, Beijing, China

9 April – 8 May, 2011

The politics of abstraction tread a very fine line. The style can be favored as a rejection of the illusions of representation in favor of a more direct engagement with perception, material and form; or, it can be perceived to be a rescinding of responsibility from making clearly defined statements. Breaking Away, Boers-Li Gallery’s second major group show since decamping to 798, presents approaches to abstraction by Chinese artists, suggesting its continued relevance for them. While presenting a fine selection of works picking up and over the traditions of abstraction, as an unintended consequence Breaking Away also makes problematic the relationship between historical and contemporary work within the gallery context in the current art environment in Beijing.

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ArtSlant: Nooks and Crannies

Review of The Pavilion opening

Vitamin Creative Space, 2503-B- Building 2, Northern District, Pingod Community, No.32 Baiziwan Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100022, China

November 20, 2010 — ongoing

The end of November marked the inception of Vitamin Creative Space’s “The Pavilion” – their third space in China, and second in Beijing – and allowed for a revisiting of their presentation methods in their various spaces. So, what is this “Pavilion” and what purpose does it serve? And how does it relate to their previous space, “the shop”? Coming to grips with Vitamin’s selection of spaces reveals a taste for poetic license in their consistently ambiguous commercial spaces.

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Social Food: Emi Uemura interview

Emi Uemura is a Japanese artist currently living in Beijing. This weekend she held the “Country Fair” at the shop at Vitamin Creative Space in Caochangdi. Country Fair brought together farmers, community activists and artists in a friendly, festive space where information, experience and perhaps most importantly, food, was shared. Emi’s “daily activities” have worked to bridge a gap between art practice and sustainable development in the world primarily by using food as a starting point for discussions about the social issues it impacts upon. This interview took place while she was preparing for the Country Fair and gives a little background to her overall working process and how she sees her activities fitting together – both with the artworld and with people who have no connection to art.

Japan, Canada

Edward Sanderson: Can you give me your background? You were born in Japan? How did you end up in China?

Emi Uemura: I was born in Japan and grew up there, going to College in Sapporo to study English Literature for two years and then transferring to the University in Halifax, Canada,

I went to Halifax to study spoken English first of all, and while at the University I took Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology, which still influences my thinking. Around that time, I started to meet students from NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) and began engaging with art, social activities and changing eating habits, After graduating from the University, I went back to Japan, worked for a year, then went to Frankfurt, Germany.

Germany, China

ES: What was Germany for?

EU: At this time, a couple of my friends attended Städelschule, a school in Frankfurt, so I was simply curious to experience living in Germany with a group of friends. I was not an official student at the school, but I sneaked around and attended their lectures, film screenings and especially their cooking classes. And did some small projects while I was there.

ES: When would that have been?

EU: 2005–2007, for two and half years. And I think that was the time I was really influenced by the relations between space and food. Even though it was a small school they had a chef and a huge cafeteria where the students and teachers sat together and eat. I found that quality interesting, that in front of food people are very open and have discussions. I think from that point on I wanted to be working with food.

Then I went back to Japan again for two years and I consciously worked with food. The artist Fuyuka Shindo and I had a collaboration unit called DUET♪. We started catering and organizing food events and projects. At this time, I was working with the Sapporo Artist in Residence programme, and I learned the importance of long-term processes for producing work and engaging with people. I’ve now been in Beijing since the end of last year, because a friend of mine is living here and again, I’m looking forward to experiencing a different culture.

Seed Bombing

ES: Maybe you can talk about some of the things that you’ve done, like the Bento boxes, the Chain Letter Dinner at “also space”, and the seed bombing. I’d also like to ask about your work with Elaine Ho’s HomeShop. There’s an informal group of people around that, and you work together on certain things. Perhaps saying you work together is too much of a structure – it’s an informal, friendship thing, so the seed bombing, for instance, is a kind of joint effort.

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Notes on Alternatives in China

Some are artists setting up programs for themselves or their peers, others are fully-fledged companies offering a wide range of art services. All see themselves as “alternatives,” but what do they mean by that and how do they sit in relation to the Beijing art-world?

These brief notes on some “alternatives” in Beijing (and beyond) were inspired by a visit to one of the groups mentioned, TCA, which led me to question just what it meant to be “alternative,” what is “alternative” a reaction against and how do these organisations go about positioning themselves?

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