Overstep: Shen Yi Elsie & Lei Benben Works Exhibition
Siemens Home Appliance Art Space, Taoci 2nd Street, 798 Art District, 100015 Beijing, China
23 July – 7 August, 2011
In 2010, on a side street behind the main drag of 798, the German appliance company Siemens opened a small art space as part of their mission to “finance young artists’ projects and provide community service around China.” As part of this worthy cause, this month the gallery is hosting Overstep, a show of two young Chinese artists Shen Yi Elsie and Lei Benben, curated by Pi Li (Director of Boers-Li Gallery).
Over the past few years both Shen Yi Elsie and Lei Benben have moved from photographic works to a more expansive approach to media – in Lei’s case into video and for Shen a practice that has developed through video into public interventions. For Pi Li, their work “oversteps” discredited boundaries of objectivity, fragmenting narrative into disjointed personal histories, creating a situation he characterises as “the inversion of time and space, [where] reality starts to drift into illusion and no longer firmly detains us.”
Stephanie Rothenberg & Dan S. Wang: The Journey West Travel Office
The Journey West Travel Office, 43 Zhonglouwan Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100007 China
21 May – 10 July, 2011
As an agent of Spectacle, tourism fulfils manufactured desires, and you can’t get more manufactured—or at least programmed—than guided tours. Tailor-made to your requirements? Maybe so, but within your tightly regimented schedule (value-for-money!) you’ll see only what you want to see, and the tendency to cede control and the experience to the tour company itself becomes part of a demonstration of social and economic affluence. But maybe those restrictions can be put to use to provide a frame within which to re-view our understanding of the sites that we visit, through a critical engagement with the process and assumptions of tourism.
Setting up shop for the last two months in a tiny street front space in the historic Drum and Bell Tower area (once home to Beijing’s time-keeping apparatus), American artists Stephanie Rothenberg and Dan S. Wang have been running their Journey West Travel Office. The Office has been developed as a serious business, from their initial location scouting in this strategic area which sees plenty of foot traffic from potential clients, to the process of interviewing and engaging salespeople, whose subsequent travails as arbiters of the various package tours to passers-by become documentary material adding to the content of the piece as a performative intervention in the area.
Linda Gallery, 797 Street B Zone, 798 Art District, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 100015 Beijing
4 June – 3 July, 2011
“Alibi,” the title in English of this group show at Linda Gallery in Beijing’s 798 Art District, seems so much more evocative than the Chinese title《不在场》which the essay by curator Wang Yifei translates as “Being Absent.” Although the adherence to the title seems a little weak at times, this show presents artists working with an absence of some sort. That being a very broad subject, the results take many forms and directions, and overall the show brings together an interesting selection of works, with some standout pieces.
Staying initially with the curator’s text, there are some points there that I think bear notice. Unsurprisingly, given where we are, the text does not delve too far into any of the contemporary social realities of “being absent.” Describing it in general terms as “like a conspiracy, an escape or a way of self-liberation.” To me this places the focus more on an individual’s agency in the matter and less on absence as a result of outside circumstances.
Guerrilla Living Syndrome: A Social Micro-Practice of Alternative Living
forget art, Beijing, China
16 May, 2011 – 16 May, 2012
forget art is a loose artist collective, based in Beijing, and initiated in 2009 by Chinese artist Ma Yongfeng. They focus on intervention-based work, often with a touch of the absurd, promoting small-scale, subtle disturbances in the fabric of society, which they describe as their “social micro-practice.”
As they work by and large outside of recognised gallery spaces, the creation and value of social space has become an important material for forget art. This keys into the long history of nomadism, with particular attention to the local experience in China and its mass population of migrant workers, as well as the international development of the itinerant white-collar worker. So in forget art’s “situations” ambivalence towards the fixed location comes through, feeding into their approach to production and presentation, and their feeling that sometimes it is necessary to “forget” in order to proceed. As Ma quips “That’s also why we don’t need any space – because we “forget art,” why do we need any space to do this?!”