ArtSlant: An Act of Critique

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Us and Institution, Us as Institution

Guangdong Times Museum, Times Rose Garden, Huang Bian Bei Lu, Bai Yun Da Dao, Guangzhou, China

29 July – 11 August, 2013

As the various flavours of institutional critique have now become “institutionalised” as part of the practice of contemporary artists, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back curated by Biljana Ciric at the Guangdong Times Museum in Guangzhou aims to reassess the origins, methodologies and effects of this practice.

It can be said that One Step Forward… builds on the work of the curatorial team within the Times Museum (and those of its invited curators) since its formal opening in 2009. They have approached their practice with a self-awareness that has consistently led to exhibitions, symposia, and publications that have productively investigated the ideas and roles of the institution as a structural body within the art system – in a way performing their own institutional critique through their daily work.

This exhibition deliberately moves the focus away from a canon of western artists associated with the development of institutional critique, onto artists and groups from other parts of the world who develop out of it and/or trace parallel trajectories to it.

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ArtSlant: Whose Autonomy?

ZiZhiQu (Autonomous Regions) (curated by Hou Hanru)

Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou

19 January – 17 March, 2013

As one of the more visible providers of a critique of the centre/periphery model of cultural development in the early 2000’s, a new exhibition by curator Hou Hanru is highly anticipated. ZiZhiQu: Autonomous Regions at the Times Museum in Guangzhou can perhaps be seen to develop this model as it applies to the cultural self-formation of individuals and groups, placing that development in contrast to a globalised institutionalisation of culture. Autonomy, then, moves across all scales in its realisation. ZiZhiQu presents expressions of autonomy at the level of the personal via the body, as well as the extension of personal autonomy into ideology and geography. In the process this show covers imaginary and real sites of the development and expression of this individual and communal state of being. This show’s tread is necessarily light, as the subject of autonomy quickly enters fraught territory in relation to specific realisations of the autonomous body in society, or its geographical presence.

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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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Yishu Journal: Little Movements: Self-practice in Contemporary Art and A Museum That is Not

Little Movements: Self Practice in Contemporary Art
OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT), Shenzhen

September 10–November 10, 2011

A Museum That Is Not
Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou

September 11–October 30, 2011

Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu on the cover of Yishu Journal No.49

“Edward Sanderson explores the increasingly blurred boundaries among curatorial practice, artistic practice, and institutions through the examples of two innovative exhibitions—Little Movements: Self-practice in Contemporary Art and A Museum That Is Not.”

Giorgio Agamben addresses the concept of movement as “that which if it is, is as if it wasn’t, it lacks itself; and if it isn’t, is as if it was, it exceeds itself.” This ambivalence between lack and plenitude marks the movement as “unfinished, unaccomplished,” suggesting that it occupies a point between the pre-political and the political, and a point without movement in an active sense, and, therefore, without a future or past of failure or resolution. This balancing point, by necessity, also makes “movement” hard to locate or define; hence its sense of being ripe for questioning when applied to the world.

Since 2010, Carol Yinghua Lu, Liu Ding and Su Wei—self-described as “a three-person curatorial team include[ing] an artist, a curator and a critic”—have been developing together what they call the Little Movements project. The recent presentation of this project at OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT) in Shenzhen, titled Little Movements: Self-practice in Contemporary Art, has provided an opportunity to see the current state of this project in the form of an exhibition.

By a happy quirk of fate, at the same time as this show, Liu Ding was fulfilling his role as an artist by presenting work in the group show A Museum That Is Not, curated by Nikita Yingqian Cai, at the Times Museum in nearby Guangzhou. A Museum That Is Not investigated the parameters of the museum as an institutional experience, with a particular focus on the host museum’s own position with the community around it, and conveniently showcased Liu Ding’s creative approaches to what can be seen as parallel concerns to the content and methods of Little Movements: Self-practice in Contemporary Art.

[To read the full article, please pick up a copy of the Journal or visit the Yishu website]

ArtSlant: Black-out Viewing at Center

The Power of Doubt, curated by Hou Hanru

Guangdong Times Museum, Times Rose Garden, Huang Bian Bei Lu, Bai Yun Da Dao, 510440 Guangzhou

17 December, 2011 – 6 February, 2012

Doubt is a concept close to my heart (for all the right – and wrong reasons). It is a state of being separated from fixed ideas, moving into a region where certainties flicker out like an ageing fluorescent strip. I feel this movement into doubt is a primary activity of art: simulation, illusion, questioning, all the while leaving the audience open to new thoughts and ways of thinking. The artist does things and I ask: “Why are they doing this?” Doubt is a region of productivity, of investigation, of crossing boundaries in every category, the genesis of potentiality.

The title of Hou Hanru’s show “The Politics of Doubt” at Times Museum immediately suggested a presentation which might display a sense of instability through the works, but what I ended up seeing was a set of rather stable—albeit interesting—works of photography and video, under a fairly simplistic curatorial premise.

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ArtSlant: The Magic of Art and Science

Pattern—Vortex—Encounter: Museum of the Unknown (Chen Xi, Fang Xian, He Yida, Ji Kun, Jin Wang, Liao Fei, Liu Yiqing, Orange (Liu Yang), Li Wen, Ling (Meng Ling), Lore Vanelsande, Ni Youyu, Qiu Anxiong, Wu Ding, Wang Guangle, Wu Yi, Xu Sheng, Zheng Huan)

Space Station, 4 Jiuxianqiao Rd, 798 Art Zone, Chaoyang District, 100015 Beijing

3 September – 3 October, 2011

A continuing concern amongst artists and art professionals in China is the nature and role of the museum in the art ecosystem. Certainly I have concerns myself – the museum has become something of a catch-all term to cover a disparate set of spaces and activities that sometimes have little to do with a traditional understanding of the term. In my experience, the term “museum” can be a bit of a misleading.

While this is a known failing with the art-institutional landscape in China which deserves deeper attention than I can give in this review, artists, curators and institutions nevertheless are addressing the issue. In recent months, I have visited (and reviewed in some cases) shows that reflect features of museum practice in part to critique it and its development, grappling with the ways in which museums and other art institutions are put into practice. These have included Little Movements (at OCAT, Shenzhen) and The Museum That is Not (at Times Museum, Guangzhou).

Nikita Cai, curator of the latter, included the group Museum of the Unknown, their rambling presentation just one of a series of shows currently on display or planned by this group of artists. Vortex (at Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum as part of CAFAM Biennial: Super-Organism), Encounter (at Times Museum) and Pattern (at Space Station), are proposed to be followed by future shows entitled Disappear, Symmetry and Psychoanalysis of Geography. This set of six shows purport to present a broad-ranging engagement between art and scientific thinking. The group suggest they create investigatory installations into the museum and gallery spaces they occupy, leading to new approaches to practices contained and engendered therein. In reality I feel way they pose their questions leads to some problematic areas of knowledge production.

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ArtSlant: Museum for the Times

A Museum That is Not: ChART Contemporary, HomeShop, Hu Xiangqian, Liu Ding, Museum of American Art in Berlin, Museum of Unknown, Wilfredo Prieto, Wu Jie, Zhang Xiangxi, curated by Nikita Yingqian Cai

Guangdong Times Museum, Times Rose Garden, Huang Bian Bei Lu, Bai Yun Da Dao, 510440 Guangzhou

11 September – 30 October, 2011

The premise put forward by curator Nikita Cai for A Museum That is Not favours a broad engagement with the idea of the museum, the related social and material effects of such an institution, as well as the point at which it becomes other than a museum (or—to view it from the other direction—the point at which the other becomes a museum). What we are presented with is a show that, while somewhat disparate, includes tangential approaches that refresh the overall theme while avoiding proscription of its meanings.

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