Little Donkey Farm, West of Houshajian Village, Sujiatuo Zhen, Haidian District, Beijing
April 16, 2011
To the North-West of Beijing just beyond the sixth ring road, approaching the mountains and the Great Wall, you find the Little Donkey Farm (LDF), a farm and community organisation promoting Community Supported Agriculture within China. LDF work with sustainable farming methods to grow and distribute healthy produce within the Beijing area. Artist Emi Uemura has been working with this organisation for the past year and April saw the fifth of their Country Fairs, initiated and co-organised by Uemura, an occasion where farmers and customers get together to buy and sell produce and share information. As was always planned by Uemura, Country Fair has now grown beyond her original artistic vision to become a broader platform for the social issues around food production.
There’s an Interesting edition of Contemporary Art & Investment out this month with, amongst other things, a feature on “Plants as a Kind of Art Relationshipology” (sic) for which I was asked to write a new piece about Emi Uemura and her work. This piece sits after a rather fine piece by Michael Eddy which gives a broader view of her practice.
Social Food: Emi Uemura
Through a number of discussions with Emi Uemura, alongside the more obvious subject matter, I’ve come to understand her work as dealing with a boundary between art and life that is forever friable and purposely undefined. I see her taking this position to prevent barriers either to the works’ appreciation or to the applicability of the work. Her subject matter highlights the raw materials of life—our food—and the processes of its production and delivery, but also the significance of our every-day decisions about it. Indeed “the every-day” may be seen as a consistent theme running through her work, an awareness of the unconscious, unremarked actions influenced by our environments and which are part of the bedrock of society. Although her works deal with “big” issues, the environment, organic food, etc. they deliberately try to stay small in scale and demonstrate a lightness of touch, keeping the effects on a personal level.
Lv Zhiqiang 吕智强, a student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, has unveiled the newest outpost of the Tate empire in Beijing’s 798 Art District. The Tate Moden has been put together with material scavenged from the College’s art waste, and relocated from CAFA’s campus this weekend. He’ll be hosting shows presumably until he gets shut down. Find him on Seven Star West Road 七星西街 (behind the coach).
UPDATE: Tate Moden lasted a week before it was asked to leave.
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.