The wall text characterizes Chen Shaoxiong and Liu Ding’s “Project Without Space” as an “iteration,” suggesting a serial repetition, one on top of the last, in a process of refinement. Now it has reached its sixth version with this presentation of paintings and videos, what lessons can we draw from these critical installations?
Spread over three rooms, “Project Without Space” takes a number of forms. In one room, two new walls have been constructed, providing settings for two videos and two paintings. One video records the artists in the process of installing the previous “Project Without Space #5” (earlier in 2012 at Magician Space down the road in 798). The video is accelerated and subtitles appear over the image, apparently a record of the artists’ conversations regarding their work and activities (“However you want to paint this one, just go ahead and do it.” “Our intellectual production is our work.”). The other video shows the two artists sitting in a café, evidently engaging in conversation, with a similar series of subtitles. The paintings bring together forms that suggest other painted artworks from (predominantly Western?) art history over the previous century, perhaps the most recognisable being several flat coloured shapes from “The Snail” by Henri Matisse.
These new works by Zhan Wang continue his explorations of the nature of the universe and the forms that make up our understanding of it. Long March’s galleries have been divided into two areas, which might be characterized as a light space and a dark space. The light space presents floor- and wall-mounted panels of smashed rocks painstakingly recreated in the artist’s signature stainless steel, along with a centerpiece block of resin holding the ghosted shape of another rock suspended within it. On the ceiling, a spotlight punches through a small opening so that, on the other (dark) side, a cone of light crosses the room, catching motes of dust in its beam. Aside from this penetration, the dark space simply presents two small video monitors, stacked on top of each other behind a column. One shows a rock suspended in deep blue ocean waters, and the other the documentation of how this first video was produced (by attaching a camera rig to the rock and dropping both into the sea).
Art can tell us something about its world, and at the same time it can tell us something about our world. Aside from what we ourselves bring to the table, the artwork can do this by being clear or opaque in its meaning, both experiences worthwhile in their unique ways. However, where the artwork is opaque or self-absorbed, if it cannot or will not provide a space for the viewer to relate to it, this then becomes problematic. There is a suspicion that Wang Mai’s new exhibition, with its complex symbolic objects and imagery, no matter how visually interesting an experience it might be, is problematic in this way.
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.