Essay on artist Zheng Yunhan

I am please to say I was able to complete my essay on the artist Zheng Yunhan, whom we represent, ending up with an extended piece which goes through each of his works, tries to put them into context and provide some sort of critical commentary on them. My piece was informed by the work I’ve done with Yunhan over the past few years and the conversations I’ve had with him over that time. I’m very sad that we were never able to put on a show of his work in our old space, but there will always be other opportunities, particularly for the most recent project To Walk.

The dilemma I have in launching this piece of writing into the public is that I am coming with an inherent bias towards Yunhan’s work – I am his dealer after all, so perhaps you need to take that into account when you read it. However, I believe this piece is not trying to boost his works without good cause, I really believe that if there wasn’t something interesting about Yunhan’s work, something with which I could grapple in words, to try to understand (and which I thought was worthwhile trying to understand), then I don’t think I would bother putting the effort into writing 5000 words about him. Of course, you could just say “well, it’s my job to promote my artists,” but I hope that my genuine interest and enthusiasm for his work (and, yes, the issues I have with it) come through in this piece.

Right now, the text is being hosted by Li Zhenhua’s research platform Laboratory Art Beijing and I’d like to thank them for supporting of my work in this way. I’m also in the process of editing the piece down into a more pithy 1,500 words which I’ll post to this blog in due course.

Link to text.

Chu Yun: “soft monumentality”

“Make a Great Work” [by Chinese artist Chu Yun] is an urban intervention on the level of soft monumentality. Soft monumentality is a concept developed by Wu Hung in his reading of the political and discursive uses of the architecture of Tiananmen Square. It is intended to encompass the flower displays, temporary amusement rides, ephemeral photo backgrounds, and other public sculptures that began to be placed in the square during National Day under the Jiang Zemin regime; all of this was opposed to the hard monumentality of earlier interventions in the political texture of the space, including the Monument to the People’s Heroes and, most notably, the Mao Zedong Mausoleum. Perhaps somewhat enamored with Jiang-era politics, Wu Hung claims that such techniques are akin to Michel de Certeau’s tactics of the everyday, and opposed to the strategic manipulations of architectural hegemony. Though he may have been overly optimistic, Chu Yun now brings a new version of soft monumentality for the age of soft power.

As an aside, “soft monumentality” is a term which could have been used to describe the soft works of American Pop artist, Claes Oldenburg (although I’m not sure that this exact conjunction is used with his work, but the words are separately applied to them). His pieces favoured humour over the gravity which art was expected to display at that time, and this seems to parallel, at least in its intentions if not it’s exact material or methods, the flowers amongst the monuments. The humour (in the sense of lightening the mood, perhaps) and the play with scale, if taken metaphorically, can be seen to be present over both these interventions.

Peckham, Robin (2010) CHU YUN IN FRANKFURT (2 OF 3). Kunsthalle Kowloon. Weblog. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 2010/02/05].

“art pollution”

The art world has different faces; it is the place where art activity is commercialised, but also the place where ideas are presented and exchanged for free. It produces useful knowledge, but also ‘art pollution’. It offers some freedom, but also subordinates its employees. It has tools to criticise western cultural domination, colonialism, the hegemony of science and so on, but it also produces a lot of idiocy. It offers visual experiences, but also makes people blind. With all these galleries, museums, art schools, magazines, critics, collectors, collections, sellers, art fairs, websites, books, catalogues – with all this collected knowledge and collected idiocy, including of course, artists – it is huge, global and powerful, a cultural machine.

Zmijewski, Artur (2010). The Politics of FEAR, Artur Zmijewski interviewed by Daniel Miller. Art Monthly No.333 (February). p.3.

The way to see linear video and new media

“Scene • Area • Emotion” New Video Media Art Exhibition, curated by Wu Qiuyan, at WenJin Art Center

Out in the University District of North-West of Beijing, near the South Gate of Tsinghua University, the WenJin Art Center has just opened inside the WenJin Hotel. Yesterday it was hosting a day of video and new media work curated by Wu Qiuyan, a teacher at the Central Academy of Fine Arts.

This was a great opportunity to have, if not the cream then at least a representative collection, of the last few years’ linear work on video presented. Splitting the works into the sections titled “scene,” “area,” and “emotion” presented the audience a broad range of artists, work and techniques, from the computer generated works of Miao Xiaochun and Feng Mengbo; through narrative (including a particularly subtle yet quietly sensationalist piece by Ma Qiusha, I still don’t now what I think about that…); semi/pseudo-documentary from Gao Yuan etc,; performance (for me the weakest set of works, but that’s my personal preferences). All of this was presented in a fairly tightly curated selection, which—although long—really felt like a comprehensive but concise account of the field in the time available.

Being able to devote this kind of time and attention to all this lovely material was a real luxury which I can’t often don’t give to linear video work (much less to interactive, non-linear work, but it’s usually not such a requirement of that). When I visit a gallery there is never enough time to view the whole video as I duck in and out of the screening rooms. So I really appreciate what the curator was doing here, enforcing some kind of participation, it was a real joy to experience.

Artists by section:

Scene: Miao Xiaochun 缪晓春, Feng Mengbo 冯梦波, Bo Hua 卜桦, Zhang Xiaotao 张小涛, Wu Junyong 吴俊勇, Bai Chongmin 白崇民, Ye Dan 叶丹, Wu Weihe 吴玮禾, Gu Zhenzhen 谷真真, Dai Hua 代化, Liu Qianyi 刘茜懿, Xu Ruotao 徐若涛, Chen Hailu 陈海璐.

Area: Liu Xuguang 刘旭光, Chen Zhuo + Huan Keyi 陈卓+黄可一, Tan Ji 谭奇, Wu Qiuyan 吴秋龑, Ding Xin 丁昕, Cheng Jie 盛洁, Wang Gefeng 王歌风, Ma Qiusha 马秋莎, Chen Wei 陈伟.

Emotion: Feng Jiangzhou 丰江舟, Zhang Haitao 张海涛, Chao Fang 沈朝方, Tan Tan 炭叹, Tian Miaozi 田苗子, Song Song 宋松, Wang Tingting 王婷婷, Chen Zhou 陈轴, Pei Li 裴丽, Gao Yuan 高媛, Shi Jingxin 史晶歆, Deng Li 邓黎, Chen Xi 陈曦, Zhang Minjie 张敏捷, Ren Lun 任伦.

In March, the curator Wu Qiuyan will be hosting another event of film and new media, this time at UCCA. More details when I have them.