ArtSlant: Sehgal’s Antics come to China

Taking the Stage OVER presents – Tino Sehgal

Minsheng Art Museum, Bldg F, No.570 West Huaihai Road, Shanghai

16 July – 14 August, 2011

In amongst the videos and installations by Zhang Peili at the Minsheng Art Museum (which I reviewed here last week), I also had a surprise encounter with the work of Tino Sehgal, whose works of performed discussions as institutional critique added an unusual perspective to the display of new media work.

Under the collective title “Taking the Stage Over,” curator Biljana Ciric has organised a year-long series of events for Shanghai. From July to September she has arranged for Sehgal to present pieces at MOCA Shanghai, then the Minsheng Art Museum, and finally the Rockbund Art Museum. On my visit to the Minsheng, “This is New” and “This is Exchange” had been “installed” in the reception area and in one of the galleries.

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Michael Yuen announcement notes

Quoted from my gallery’s announcement of a new artist:

CPU:798 is delighted to welcome Michael Yuen to our roster1 of artists. Michael’s work encompasses a plurality2 of media3, and he is already well-known4 in his native Australia for a body of exceptional works making use of light5, sound6 and performance7. With Michael joining CPU:798, we are building on our mission8 to present the most interesting new media9 artists from both inside and outside of China today10.

Over the past few years Michael has divided his time equally between Australia11 and China12, and in both environments13 his works have investigated the nature of public spaces14 and how small events and interventions15 can have large-scale effects16 on those spaces and the people in them.

  1. What would be the appropriate collective noun for this?
  2. Plurality: perhaps plenitude. Or plethora.
  3. ‘New’ media as opposed to ‘traditional’ media.
  4. see his biography
  5. e.g. Flash. Also includes sound as part of the piece.
  6. e.g. Pulse. Also includes light as part of the piece.
  7. e.g. Follow. Developed because of the specific difficulties creating a sound or light piece in an urban environment where the ambient noises and visual clutter would mask the elements of the work.
  8. see statement on website
  9. see note 3
  10. expanding the gallery’s focus out from photography per se
  11. Adelaide
  12. Beijing
  13. How different are they, and how does this manifest itself to the artist and through his work?
  14. Particularly differences in the nature of public spaces. I have never lived in Australia (I visited Sydney once for 3 days), but from my experience from living in China, comparing this to the UK and Europe, the Chinese use their spaces in very particular ways. The spaces may be the same, or in many ways comparable, or completely different, but people here in China occupy them in a very characteristic way. It is a confluence of character (habit, tradition), architecture (in the sense of a human planned external controlling affect on the occupants), environment (a ‘natural’ external affect), and immediate practicality (an internal affect) which all go to suggest what happens there.
  15. sound and light work in this way – materially discrete
  16. an effect is that we experience them as an artwork (something removed from everyday life;or, something like everyday life which makes everyday life suddenly seem strange?). They assert themselves, make themselves known. Distract or attract attention. Trip up, disturb, unsettle.

Ujino Muneteru performance

The Japanese artist Ujino Muneteru performing at the opening night of the Beautiful New World exhibition at Long March Space, Beijing.

His accumulation of practical, everyday-life objects all are representatives of the tangible in our life. However, he experiments with the double-dimensions of those materials by creating also an intangible effect, namely sounds.

notes about dealing with franko-b’s I Miss You!

A friend introduced me to the work of Franko-b and I’ve put off posting about it as I’m unsure about my reactions to it.

Wait, perhaps that’s a bit disingenuous. I know what my immediate reaction was. What’s taken time has been trying to put that reaction into words and work out it’s relevance.

On the one hand, I’m not good with blood, so inevitably I found the video of I Miss You! quite difficult to watch. On the other, I get a vicarious thrill from the whole practice of cutting and blood-letting, in the same way that I find many types of body modification attractive.

While watching this video I couldn’t help thinking about the beauty of the way the video was distorted by the compression – when it’s viewed full-screen especially it created abstract washes of golden colour, with regions of smooth colour gradients merging into more detailed, pixelated areas.

I was considering capturing some of the footage and isolating those parts as a work of art in itself. I thought that this would serve as a new piece of work to show my reaction to Franko-b’s work. But then I thought, hold on, why would I want to do this? Is this just me avoiding my real issues with the piece?

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Gertrude, III.ii)

My reaction to the footage, and my subsequent ways of dealing with it, gives me away. Blood-letting causes a visceral reaction on my part, I would go so far as to say a revulsion, and my coping strategy is to transfer my attention away from that aspect of what is being shown to an aspect of the video that I am comfortable with, in this case the aesthetic of the semi-random pixel effects. This sounds like trauma to me, but I am not well versed in its extensive history, so wouldn’t like to trivialise the subject. The following comes from a text that I happen to have just read, but I should go back to the primary sources, whatever they may be:

…trauma can be experienced in at least two ways: as a memory that one cannot integrate into one’s own experience, and as a catastrophic knowledge that one cannot communicate to others.

Avital Ronell, “Haunted TV” Artforum, 31, 1 (September 1992), pp. 70–3.

And here I am being completely distracted from the work itself by my own reactions to it. Have I nothing to say about the piece or the artist in themselves? I should consider whether this an intended effect of the work*. Can I judge the work separately from it’s effect on me? Can I/Should I be objective about it?

The work asserted the body as a site for the representation of pain and fear, intrinsic to the human condition.

* This point reminds me of another of Franko-b’s works Why Are You Here (Aktion 893)