To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. In this fourth piece, of the six in total, I talk about the fact that many of Song Dong’s works deal with the traces we leave and the access that gives us to the perpetrators.
Colour photography, 1996
These twinned photographs record two actions performed by Song Dong in Beijing during the winter of 1996. Alternately laying face down in Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square (the de facto locus of recent political history in China) and then on the frozen surface of Houhai Lake (one of the man-made lakes fringing the Western edge of the Forbidden City, to the North-West of Tian’anmen Square), in each case Song simply breathed for 40 minutes onto the surface in front of his face. In the sub-zero temperatures of those winter nights his warm, moist breath formed a crust of ice on the flagstones in the former location, but reportedly had little effect on the lake’s thick ice. By the morning all trace of these activities had disappeared leaving these photographs behind as their record.
To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. This is the third of the six pieces I wrote, this time about Simon Fujiwara’s religious experience in front of a work of art and the work’s life within the world.
“The Mirror Stage”
What does our experience of art tell us about ourselves? We might experience the meaning and value of art through our understanding of the work of the ‘genius artist,’ or in a superlative experience that overwhelms us, an ecstatic appreciation, a moment of bliss. These understandings are essentially subjective but have become part of the mythology of Art’s work in the world, to make up in some way for its lack of practical use perhaps. As such the validity and value of these understandings cannot be taken at face value.
“Epiphany” is the word used to describe artist Simon Fujiwara’s experience in the mid-‘90s, standing in front of a large colour-field painting by artist Patrick Heron, then on display at the Tate St Ives (an outpost of the Tate Gallery in Britain). Although this event is apparently what set Fujiwara on the road to becoming an artist, we are also led to believe that, rather than a particularly spiritual epiphany, this case of revelation was a sexual one – Fujiwara’s realisation of his own homosexuality.
To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. In this, the second of six pieces, I look at a piece whose extent may not be immediately apparent in the gallery.
“Un Tour d’Horizon”
Installation and Performance, 2011
“Un Tour d’Horizon” – a French idiom having the meaning of a quick reflection upon the various perspectives of a topic. This is the exclamation made by a viewer upon experiencing this installation/performance work by Belgian artist Kelly Schacht.1 And, to that end, this work literally provides itself with a number of viewers of the ‘installation,’ thereby creating its own demonstration of a number of ‘perspectives.’ However, distinct from ourselves as an independent ‘audience’ per se, these viewers are part and parcel of the piece having been engaged by the artist to remain looking at the ‘installation.’ The ‘installation’ (in this case) being a layered set of minimal white sheets attached to the wall in front of the viewers.
To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. First up: Haroon Mirza’s piece that is represented with a video in Shenzhen, but in reality is a rather complex installation, as I’ve tried to describe.
The elaborate installations of artist Haroon Mirza analyze the formation of sound and noise as a cultural and social mechanism as much as a mechanical one. The various parts of the piece Adhãn build into a work that touches on the way music and noise produce and communicate meaning in context with other objects. The cultural results of these productions of meaning hold particular significance for the artist, especially (as in this case) the role they play in religious and secular society.
Created following a visit to Pakistan in 2007–8, Adhãn reflects the artist’s research into the “uneasy role music plays in the Islamic faith”,1 the title referring to the call to prayer performed by the Muezzin, an official in a mosque. The installation is made up of seemingly disparate objects with their workings and formative elements insistently exposed, as is common in Mirza’s work. Various old items of furniture support or become part of the process of the piece, including a long, low cupboard with integral lamp at one end. Next to the cupboard sits a radio tuned to static, whose aerial pokes up into the canopy of the lamp. The lamp flickers in tandem with music coming from a small TV set at the other end of the cupboard, causing the radio’s interference to modulate in sync with these pulses. The TV is broadcasting an acoustic session by musician Cat Stevens from 1971, who famously converted to Islam some years after the recording, changing his name to Yusuf Islam in the process, so creating a direct link to the recent history of the Islamic faith within the piece.