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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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: Place as Performance

Three Openings of Xiangqian Art Museum: Hu Xiangqian solo show

Taikang Space, Red No.1–B2, Caochangdi, Cuigezhuang, Chaoyang District, 100015 Beijing, China

17 December, 2011 – 17 February, 2012

A projection on one side of the room shows the artist Hu Xiangqian, dressed smartly in white shirt and black trousers, stepping in front of a lone microphone on the raised metal walkway in front of the Guangzhou Times Museum. In the process he inaugurates the opening of the Xiangqian Art Museum, which had previously “opened” as part of the Asia Triennial Manchester 2011 in the UK, and in its first outing, as part of Taikang Space’s excellent series of solo shows under the umbrella title of 51m2 (referring to the area of the space for each of the 16 shows in the series).

In each case, though, this “museum” is not a physical structure, or at least not a building: the institution of Xiangqian Art Museum is embodied by Hu’s own body, in which the artist describes himself as the sole employee. In each of the three instances of the Art Museum on display in Taikang Space’s upstairs room, Hu demonstrates the real and fictional objects in his Museum’s “collection.” This is done through his own movements and simultaneous verbal descriptions. In this way he performs the museum, taking on its duty of public display through the contortions of his body.

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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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