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.