Fresh Visions 2013 curator’s text: Judging the Temperature of Art by Degrees

[English text below]

由毕业展探测艺术的未来温度:艺术学院及批判性实践

李蔼德

作为文章的前言,我想说明一下,虽然我在中国当代艺术界积累了一些经验,但为这次展览做的前期准备是我第一次与中国学院系统进行的持续接触。这篇文章则是我对这一体验的初步回应。

今年新视觉展的参展作品选自中国八大美院绘画系的学士、硕士生毕业展。毋庸置疑,我对这些作品充满期待,毕竟它们的作者理论上将构成中国艺术界的未来。可惜的是,满足这一期待的作品虽未匿迹(其中一些将出现在新视觉展上),却也寥寥无几。宏观看来,各大毕业展中的作品在艺术实践上都稍显保守,我猜测这种保守主义与推进学生艺术创作的美术院校不无关系。其中,具有批判性的艺术实践是最为关键的缺失,在我看来这却正是艺术院校应当展示出的成果。

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art-agenda: “I’m Not Involved In Aesthetic Progress: A Rethinking of Performance”

Curated by Su Wei. Participating artists: Chen Shaoxiong, Chen Zhou, Li Qi, Li Ran, Liu Ding, Ma Liuming, Xing Danwen, Zhu Ming. At Star Gallery, Beijing

April 13 – May 16, 2013

I'm Not Involved in Aesthetic Progress installation view (foreground: Xing Danwen, background: Chen Shaoxiong)

In this inaugural exhibition for Star Gallery’s new Beijing space, curator Su Wei addresses certain perceived limitations in the discourse surrounding Chinese performance art. Drawing on the work of eight artists, the presentation avoids “formulated mechanisms,” Su writes, to specifically address works “irreducible to any classification within the historical process of aesthetics.” Su proposes that this can partly be accomplished by more fully addressing the original contexts of the performances: “It is impossible to [remove] the work of the artist from its site.”

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艺术界LEAP: No Ground Underneath: Curating on the Nexus of Changes

Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou

2–4 July, 2012

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.

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Flash Art: Liu Ding—Stressing Value to Its Breaking Point

Edward Sanderson

Self-awareness is a key feature of Liu Ding’s work — in many cases incessantly so. When you look at Liu Ding’s work, it is as if it is winking back at you, slyly implicating you in its investigations.

Liu Ding’s work questions the formation of value — with inevitable implications for the systems of art that posit a myth of value as a central conceit in their working processes. A generalized idea of “value” and the way that value comes to be (particularly in the rarefied atmosphere of the art world) is the sine qua non of arbitrage.

At the same time, Liu Ding’s works are full of questions. His works may literally ask a question, but more usually they put forth statements that leave us with our own questions as to the nature, source and purpose of those statements. These statements are literally applied or inscribed onto the objects themselves, or exist through the arrangements and settings presented for our contemplation.1

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ArtSlant: What, Then, Can Art Be?

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.

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5/6: Kill by Sui Jianguo (2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale)

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. Next up in this fifth of six pieces, the subject is the wound length of rubber seen recently at Pace Beijing’s solo show of the work of Sui Jianguo (note this text refers to an alternative, wall-mounted version, than that finally displayed in the Shenzhen show).

“Kill”

Rubber and nails, 1996–1997

Kill represents a point in Sui Jianguo’s work where his work past from an early “expressionistic” stage through to more conceptual representations, reflecting a more ironic use of symbolic imagery that could be seen as developing in parallel to the emergence of cynical realism in China at the time.

The two, long rubber sheets of Kill hang off lengths of old wood, the whole structure propped up against the wall. The sheets are studded with thousands of small nails forming an intricate, abstract pattern over the rubber surface (these patterns are perhaps more obvious when viewed from the side where the flat heads lie). Overall the strips look somewhat like flayed animal skins, hanging up to dry. Their bristly surface also has a thick, carpet-like appearance, belying the sharpness of the nail’s tips.

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4/6: Breathing by Song Dong (2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale)

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.

“Breathing”

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.

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