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.
Last night saw the Donkey Institute of Contemporary Art (DICA) take to the streets of Beijing for its first outing this year.
Last year DICA was showing a selection of artists’ videos on the screens attached to the donkey, but this time around Michael Yuen and Yam Lau have created custom-built shelves for the cart which display a library of artists books.
After being moved on by the police from their original spot, DICA ended up on the corner of Fangyuan Xilu 芳园西路 and Jiangtai Lu 将台路 near the Lido Hotel, a busy intersection. There was a good turnout of locals on their way home from work and art-people, and many people took the time find out what was going on and thumb through the books:
Some are artists setting up programs for themselves or their peers, others are fully-fledged companies offering a wide range of art services. All see themselves as “alternatives,” but what do they mean by that and how do they sit in relation to the Beijing art-world?
These brief notes on some “alternatives” in Beijing (and beyond) were inspired by a visit to one of the groups mentioned, TCA, which led me to question just what it meant to be “alternative,” what is “alternative” a reaction against and how do these organisations go about positioning themselves?
A review? How can you review art on a donkey? What is this venue which turns the gallery inside-out, taking the works on a tour of the local area, carried by an animal characterised in popular mythology as a strong but stubborn worker?
I want to see the donkey travelling, Michael described his trip from the stable to 798 as quite magical. The travelling suggests the possibility of getting lost, losing its audience even. Maybe it works better without its audience, who is its audience anyway? The art community who turned up are not really its audience, but they in themselves serve as a point of attraction, an exotic crowd. If the audience is the locals, why? Because the donkey is normal for that kind of area in Beijing, it has been chosen to blend in with the context, not to be about its strangeness as an attraction, but promoting some kind of normality. The donkey, and by extension the institute, displays “steadfast oblivion” – in some way divorced from any audience, it is a worker here, it comes to perform its task and leaves.
So here I am still obsessing about the donkey and not touching upon the videos being shown on its back, perhaps just proving my own position as part of the art world, and probably not the donkey’s audience after all.
In order to get some answers, I’m interviewing Michael this week, and will post extracts from that chat to this blog.