The 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale: “Accidental Message: Art is Not a System, Not a World” (curated by Liu Ding, Carol Yinghua Lu, Su Wei)
OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Enping Road, Overseas Chinese Town, Nanshan District, Shenzhen, China
12 May – 31 August, 2012
Following their Little Movements exhibition in the same venue last year (which I reviewed on ArtSlant.com at the time), the curatorial group of Liu Ding, Carol Yinghua Lu and Su Wei return to Shenzhen’s OCT Contemporary Art Terminal to undertake the broader task of a biennale. Despite retaining the moniker of “Sculpture,” this seventh iteration of the Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale has less to do with sculpture as a distinct discipline, than with what amounts to a renewed opportunity for the curators to expand on the theories and practices they had expounded in Little Movements.
The choice of the rather contrary title Accidental Message: Art is Not a System, Not a World positions this Biennale as a clear statement against large-scale trends or movements. The idea that art imparts, or is itself, an “accidental message” is a troubling but simultaneously interesting proposition given the current state of art. It is troubling in that (aside from the obvious questioning of historical impetus), having thus placed art-making as an “accidental” communication, the curatorial process itself seems to made problematic. This position appears antagonistic to the assumption that a show is curatorially held together with a clear theme or relation.
La Chambre Claire: Liu Chuang, Liu Wei, Wang Yuyang, Zhang Liaoyuan, Zheng Guogu, curated by Tang Xin, Su Wenxiang, Xu Chongbao
Taikang Space, Red No.1-B2, Caochangdi, Cuigezhuang, Chaoyang District, 100015 Beijing, China
7 April – 2 June, 2012
With an abrupt reference in its title to a book by Roland Barthes (which appeared in English as Camera Lucida), this show gets underway, presenting works by five Chinese artists with a relation to the “phantom” of photography.
The artists’ particular approaches to the medium of photography are varied. In this show Liu Wei is the only artist to include actual photographs, with several examples from his series As Long As I See It, from 2006 on display. These works demonstrate a certain instrumentality by the artist, as he takes a Polaroid of an object and then proceeds to cut away parts of the original object to match the view presented in the photograph, presenting them both together in some kind of cause and effect relationship.
Liu Wei’s view of photography as a process forming the world in its image is the most straightforward use of the photographic medium in this show. The other works in the show proceed from the fact of photography to step away from the object of the photograph into terrain that addresses the meaning of this thing that is called photography.
Chambers Fine Art, Red No.1-D, Caochangdi, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100015, China
18 February – 25 March, 2012
Hong Lei’s particular form of mythicized, fetishized work would usually not attract me. In other artists I have found the saturated content and symbolism seen in Hong Lei’s myriad works too heavy-handed and oppressive, leading me to feel the work held itself—and the audience—too far apart from a reality.
This is something that I’ve recently experienced in the work of Cai Guo-Qiang, for instance – an urge to create a critical mass of meaning at the expense of a connection with the audience. In the process I experienced alienation through the latter artist’s works, by what I found to be its highly considered and artificial approach to the subject matter.
While this is certainly a risk with Hong Lei’s works on display at Chambers Fine Art, in this case I’ve found that the artists lightness of touch and subtlety of its approach to the viewer—while not resolving all of my issues with its tendency to objectify aspects of its subjects—entices the viewer in and adds a sense of wonder to the overall installation, à la the fantasist Borges.
Photography seems to be the perfect medium for Wang Qingsong’s monumentally theatrical set pieces. In his overblown symbolic constructions and groups of people, the artist addresses issues of both a general and personal nature. In the gallery, these are presented as lush, large-format photographs allowing the artist’s attention to detail in the settings to be held static in front of our eyes for detailed attention. In the spaces of Tang Contemporary the artist is now presenting two set pieces, as well as the photographs, to the audience, which leads to the realisation that the extra dimensions may not benefit the works.