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.
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 last piece, the sixth that was included in the catalogue, I address Wang Luyan’s Walking Man which I feel expresses many of the ambiguities found throughout this artist’s work. Thanks for your attention, I hope these pieces have been interesting for you.
Wang Luyan, Gu Dexin and Chen Shaoping’s founding of the New Measurement Group (NMG) (active from 1988–1995) represented a choice to focus their work on rule-based activities that reduced the mark of the individual to a minimum, if not removing it entirely. Wang’s own works to a certain extent also followed this way of thinking and working, but retained a marked stylistic quality that is clearly his own. At the time NMG’s approach and Wang’s work represented a position in contrast to the supposedly illogical, irrational art of what became known as Political Pop. The group’s interest in “logical” forms of presentation and the concepts that they illustrate (sometimes referred to as “rationalist”) become illustrated forms in Wang’s sharply delineated paintings, toying with barely suppressed paradoxes.
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).
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.
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.
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.