Curating needs a bit of a shake down in China. The term has become a cliché to describe pretty much any situation in which one can point to a modicum of organisation, and is often characterised as a perfunctory look at the issues raised. Seminars that take a long hard look at the subject, and successfully integrate local and international resources and audiences, are also pretty rare in this context. So, despite the Summer heat in Guangzhou, we couldn’t refuse the invitation of the Guangdong Times Museum to attend their “No Ground Underneath: Curating on the Nexus of Changes” which brought together practitioners from near and far in an extended forum over three days of intensive presentations and discussions.
Nikita Yingqian Cai, curator of the Times Museum, in collaboration with the seemingly ubiquitous independent curator and critic Carol Yinghua Lu, co-curated this event as a prelude to a new series of books on the general subject of curation, to be published by the Museum beginning later this year.
The Meeting Room is a project hosted within Beijing’s Arrow Factory space, and organised by artists Rania Ho, one of the founders of that space, and Elaine Ho (no relation), founder of the HomeShop, a small creative community sited a few streets away. With this new project, the concerns of the two artists previously expressed through their work on their particular institutions, have come together to form a very interesting and socially productive use of the space – converting it into bookable space for meetings, which over the last month has come to naturally reflect the major and minor concerns of the participants in the meetings.
Both the Arrow Factory and HomeShop tend to be lumped together under the rubric of “the alternative” within the Chinese art world, but have somewhat different concerns and ways of working. I have written about each institution before on ArtSlant.com, but to summarise (and drastically generalise as they are in fact quite complex entities): Arrow Factory is a response to commercial art spaces, taking aspects of the gallery format and usurping their functions, in one way by closing the space off to access; HomeShop is a host community for a number of artists and creatives. Both institutions share a methodology by geographically and conceptually distancing themselves from the art districts of Beijing, and in part confront issues with their own role in their local, non-art communities.
In a sense the Arrow Factory space is still closed off, in that The Meeting Room has converted it into a bookable space for meetings, but this aspect of open access to the use of the space means the boundaries have been made publically and socially somewhat permeable. Whereas before the installations in Arrow Factory were designed to be viewed through the glass doors but not entered, these meetings allow for a placement in the space of the members of the groups, while the meetings themselves are then objectified and made viewable to passers-by by virtue of this same glazed façade.