As Ma mentioned in my interview with him, the group show “forget art” which he has curated took place this afternoon in the Dragon Fountain Bathhouse in Caochangdi. Following his reasoning for the show, the works more or less blended into reality, so for a while the whole bathhouse was an object of artistic possibility.
An edited Chinese-language translation of a piece I wrote was published in Vogue China in November 20081. These are my original texts in response to the questions the editor proposed as the structure for the piece:
Please write down why you picked Damien Hirst?
Hirst is a controversial character who gives a writer a lot of material to get their teeth into. Whatever else you think about him and whether or not you think what he does is serious, I think you have to admit he’s making some serious points about his practice as an artist and the role of art for humanity. He’s also not shy of confronting the art world’s workings and it’s position in society.
His work has gone through many stages. It has a tendency towards the theatrical or cinematic in the sense that many of the larger works create settings in which there is a gap available for the human figure to take it’s place so we become part of the work. This sumptuous theatricality tends to overshadow the fact the Hirst is primarily a conceptual artist, concerned more with the idea behind the work than the absolute form the work takes. For him craftsmanship or artistic style are all subservient to the idea behind the work – but the effectiveness of the form often leads to his work being misunderstood (especially by the tabloid press in Britain) as semi-decorative and lacking in any deep meaning. This isn’t helped by Hirst himself who can often appear flippant when asked to justify his work.
Zheng’s work deals with the relationship between the Chinese people and their landscapes, it’s idealised nature as a site for forming, as man-perfected/adjusted material, a symbolic residue or site of potential for human activity.
His works stem from an investigation of his home town of Jixi, a mining town in NE China. Jixi Research Project, ongoing since 2004, is a documentary-like archive of visual and spoken records of the lives of the people living in this town dominated by mining and the consequences of this industry on their lives and landscape. This piece is presented as a 4-channel projection with interactivity, emphasising the audiences participation in the story telling process.
For Sunflower Project, Zheng commissioned his family and friends to plant a large field of sunflowers in the hills surrounding the town of Jixi. The resulting artwork is an ultra-high resolution composite photograph of this field. On the one side in the distance is Jixi and on the other a memorial marking a mass grave of locals killed by the Japanese Army during the occupation of China during the Second World War. The sunflowers act as physical link between the living and the dead, a route of remembrance, reflecting during their short lives the remains of life and death all around them.
Today I made a short presentation to the Framing Art course that I’m on, based around two texts linked to the practice of Institutional Critique, one by Daniel Buren1 and one by Adrian Piper2. The question to which this is the response was:
During the seminar, students will give a short presentation of their chosen artists’ writings. This analysis must not give an overview of all the arguments contained in the two texts, it must instead be based on a single comparable argument extracted from each text and presented within a contextual framework.
The presentations must concentrate on how your chosen artist has addressed the museum.
I’ve posted the notes from which I did the talk, as well as a recording.3.
I didn’t realise I said ‘erm’ quite so much. How embarrassing. I’ve asked about presentation coaching so hopefully I will be able to improve on this.
- Buren, D. (1971). Function of the Museum. In McShine, K. ed., The Museum as Muse, Artists Reflect. New York: MOMA, 1999.
- Piper, A. (1980). Some Thoughts on the Political Character of This Situation. In McShine, K. ed., The Museum as Muse, Artists Reflect. New York: MOMA, 1999.
- Every few minutes you’ll hear the hard drive of the iPod spin up and down again. Although noisy, it’s still possible to hear what I’m saying.