Following the series of interviews I made with sound workers in China back in April, and since I’ve now (temporarily!) moved back to the UK, I’ve taken the opportunity to record a further set of chats with people and groups in this country. Generally speaking these people interested me because of their approach to the way a practice negotiates the social fabric. The relationship between these speakers activities and what one might call a cultural practice is perhaps quite an ambivalent one, in some cases even an irrelevant consideration for them. I point that out because such activities have in some cases been subsumed within an art practice—specifically the “dialogic” approach—but such practices may at times be seen to “work” better when kept at a distance from such a context, a choice of position which in the process calls into question the efficacy of an art-based practice in attempting to come to grips with the world.
Over the past few weeks I’ve begun a series of interviews for the “Uncut Talks” sound magazine, a project initiated by the artist Ma Yongfeng of forget art. At this point I thought I would pull together the first three interviews which (coincidentally) have all been with Chinese sound artists and musicians. Future interviews will venture into other creative fields. Ma Yongfeng and the Italian curator and artist Alessandro Rolandi have also added their own interviews to the Uncut Talks site, so please take a moment and check them out, I think there is something for everyone there!
Yan Jun talks about his “Living Room Tour”:
Sheng Jie (gogo) talks about her audio-visual practice:
VAVABOND (Wei Wei) and Li Jianhong talk about improvisation:
GROW Food Justice Global Campaign China Launch Ceremony: Food Art Exhibition, curated by Xia Yanguo
PIFO New Art Gallery, B-11, 798 Art Area, No.2 Jiuxianqiao Rd, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
11 – 20 August, 2012
[Author’s note: I acted as an unpaid consultant for the GROW Campaign at an early stage, however I have had no involvement with this show at PIFO Gallery]
Food Art Exhibition at PIFO New Art Gallery, organised by the international charity Oxfam as part of their global “GROW” campaign, aims to raise awareness of poverty in relation to production and access to food, but the art exhibition on show raises issues with the effectiveness of this form of presentation.
Although art shows to promote charitable issues have worthy intentions that should in most cases be supported, there is a troublesome tendency for the art to be the least considered part of the affair. In the face of the important or urgent issues to be supported, the artworks often appear irrelevant or ineffectual, and there is a tendency to favour unproblematic or vague artistic responses to avoid distracting from the issue. Given art’s potential as a creative medium one would hope that it could play an important part in productively contributing to the issues, rather than simply acting as a background or window-dressing.
Alessandro Rolandi’s Social Sensibility R&D Program at BERNARD CONTROLS S.A. in Beijing
When asked about her working environment, one worker said she would like to feel the sun on her skin for a while – a simple but poetic request, fulfilled by moving her workstation outside the factory for a short period. Another worker took the opportunity to make a fluid sculpture out of the big barrel of grease he was using, giving it the title: “A piece of shit.” These little gestures came about as part of Italian artist Alessandro Rolandi’s Social Sensibility R&D Program, instituted in the factory of Bernard Controls S.A. on the outskirts of Beijing.
Bernard Controls is a French family-owned company producing specialist servo engines for operating valves in water pipes found in nuclear power stations, but also used in places like the Beijing Opera House and the Olympic Swimming Pool (AKA the “Water Cube”) in Beijing.
For a factory to embrace such a distraction from the serious business of production is down to the initiative of the boss, Guillaume Bernard, an engineer with a particular interest in corporate social responsibility. But while Bernard Controls already had a steering committee working to improve management personnel relationships using activities such as exhibition visits and music concerts, M. Bernard was looking beyond this. “He’s one step ahead,” Rolandi says. “He’s an engineer, not a psychologist, sociologist, or a philosopher. We talked a lot about this, and he seems genuinely open to more socially aware activities, which I related to relational practice within the art world.”