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Li Zhanyang – ‘Rent’ – Rent Collection Yard
Galerie Urs Meile | 26 April – 24 August, 2008
Li Zhanyang’s solo show is a worthy visit this season, he has modeled his collection of sculptures on an “instructional” collective artwork that was commissioned during the Cultural Revolution. Instead of featuring the landlords, rapists, suffering and poor of the original, substitutes high-profile characters from the world of Chinese contemporary art. His commentary, his drole means of representing these folk, and his skillful adaption of the original is intelligent and timely. Due to the historical and social nature of this work, it is best appreciated through accompanying texts, below are excerpts from the gallery press release and a translation of Ai Weiwei’s response to the artist.
text: Nataline Colonnello (the following is extracted from the gallery press release)
‘Rent’ – Rent Collection Yard (2007) is the title of the largest and most complex sculptural installation Li Zhanyang (born 1969, Jilin Province, China) has ever created. Taking eighteen months of production after nearly a decade of conceptual incubation, Li Zhanyang’s ‘Rent’ – Rent Collection Yard is a humorous and subjective look at the Chinese contemporary art scene. It is informed by the artist’s personal experience. Characters, both local and international, are brought to life. The 34 life-size coloured fiberglass figures of this installation are modeled after the likeness of various people familiar to the artist – among them international celebrities as well as some only known in Chinese contemporary art circles. They include Chinese and Western artists, curators, collectors, gallery owners, gallery assistants, and art students. The gathered subjects were chosen according to their public or professional roles. Displayed on a real stage they were designed to showcase each figure in a striking a pose – dramatic or absurd, some of them with imbuing mordant satire. Following six conceptual themes (Paying Rent, Foot Washing, Raping, Oppressing, Dying a Martyr, and History Observed), the sculptures are spread throughout three exhibition spaces of Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing. The congregation seemingly gathered or juxtaposed is part of a broader and fabricated narrative revealing latent conflicts and power relations – the dirt underneath the high-gloss surface of the art world. The artist places his fiberglass alter ego amidst the other characters, representing himself by gazing intently into the darkness of the spectators. And among the spectators, Li Zhanyang places two exceptional figures in the front row: Joseph Beuys and Mao Zedong (in History Observed). Beuys, one of the most influential figures in the modern contemporary art scene, is expounding on the dynamic and chaotic interplay in front of them with a wild and passionate gesture beside the icon and father figure of revolutionary China.
The work is a contemporary transposition of the story of landlord Liu Wencai. During the revolutionary era, Liu Wencai was a victim of political muckraking and depicted as a brutal exploiter of the peasants.
(Beijing, 19 May 2008) Andy Warhol abruptly left the city and the people so familiar to him, the sounds, the colors and their warmth, just over 20 years ago. The moment he was gone the world was changed. This wasn’t an arrow propelled from a bow, but the bow (and the world that held it) falling from the arrow, separated in an instant and forever.
Everything in Andy’s life seemed pretentious, a kaleidoscope of colors and extravagance. Like a prophet who can truly see through the confines of time, long before the true arrival of the era that he prophesized, anything within his sight was magnified, duplicated over and over and thereby rendered emotionally and mentally fractured and emptied. Time and men could be equally splendid and extraordinary, and at the same time so insignificant.
Andy was attached to that world so filled with uncertainty, even though the same world similarly distrusted him. Till the very end they shared a hard to define mutual resentment; together temporarily, and likewise forever separated, something like a remarkably original decree blurted out but swallowed back up, all it leaves behind is astonishment.
The absurd thing is that one day in 1982, Andy arrived by happenstance in this unfamiliar nation. The people here were still drowsy under the artifice of a communist government, every face wore the same simple shyness. At these geographical coordinates, not a single person expressed interest in the artist. No one recognized that mask-like face infamous throughout the rest of the world. And although Andy made innumerable portraits of famous figures, the most famous among them was ironically the archetypical representation of this transitional national leader in China, a portrait that he painted hundreds of times. The ubiquitous portrait caused Mao Zedong to be looked upon as a god in China. However, in Andy’s rendering, the allegorical force of Mao’s portrait was made conventional, its enormity made neutral, objectified, emptied of its moral value as well as its aesthetic intent. (more…)
Joy Art: April 19-May 30
Curatorial text / Liu Ding
For many years Sui Jianguo has used his art practice to contemplate and expand upon sculptural concepts and forms. He also employs related media, video, installation and performance to reflect and discuss the changing patterns in our social lives and the forces and mechanisms that shape our social patterns. In Joy Art’s second project “Revealing Traces” Sui Jianguo unfolds his research through the extracting and presentation of molding and the enlargement process of a small clay model; he also examines the social phenomenon that is the transformation of individual will into the public will.
Generally, in the sculpture creation process, the sculptor first makes a complete small-scale model, workers then enlarge it to the artist’s specified dimensions, and lastly it is molded into an artwork in a different material. In the “Revealed Fragments” project, Sui Jianguo personally created small-scale clay models of three different forms, he then intentionally covered their surfaces with his fingerprints. According to the general procedures for modeling and enlargement of these small sculptural models, Sui used workers to first mold his clay models into silica gel molds, then from these molds they were molded into plaster; following this, a laser mapped out the appearance of the plaster model and marked coordinate locations on a grid. This “virtual grid” of the plaster model was then enlarged more than 10 times according to an actual and comprehensive positioning system; these circular coordinates were blown up according to a “circular enlargement” process. An iron frame and wooden supports were constructed according to the requirements dictated by the new dimensions; then wooden rings were built around the wooden supports. Accordingly, the sculpture’s clay frame was built upon these wooden rings, thus completing the basic mold for the enlarged model. The workers then completed the model according to the now enlarged circular coordinates, accurately representing the handprints of the artist’s original model. Ultimately, the artist’s clay sculpture is perfectly enlarged ten times its original size; it becomes an enormous sculpture with monumental quality.
Wang Di and Mao-era architecture
text / Yin Jinan
Architecture always employs its historical presence to construct our landscapes, and the “objectivity” of architecture is not always reflected in its mere functionality. As a historical relic itself, it already is the target of every observer’s objectivity; even if the person is imaginative, architecture remains a realistic departure point for the machinations of just such a person.
I often think: what would it be like were a historian or a sociologist to take up a camera and photograph architecture as a historical entity? Undoubtedly, the camera is a more “objective” tool then other recording methods, and this is precisely what historians and sociologists strive for––though none of them are capable.
Wang Di has photographed some of Beijing’s structures. These buildings have their own history; they were all built in Mao’s era, and the spirit and culture of Mao Zedong’s era are embodied within them. From them we garner a visual sense of people in the Mao-era, their class concepts and their historical relation to these buildings. Wang Di’s motivation to photograph these buildings is derived from his personal experiences growing up as well as a special fondness for them. Through his photographic process he has gradually merged into the world of sociological methodology and perspective with these historic buildings that bear the weight of Mao-era cultural ideology with their physical form, and they are dying off–– (more…)
text / Ar Cheng
Let me describe for readers a brain process: we see an image, our retinae take the image to the thalamus, and the thalamus converts it into code (as a computer would turn the same image into binary code of ones and zeros), it is then saved in the hippocampus (which is shaped like a seahorse, whose scientific name is Hippocampus). At the same time the Amygdala (which is shaped like an almond, whose scientific name is Amygdalus) saves correlated emotional memories such as fear or joy. Thus when we see a wolf, for example, we feel fear. If the Amygdala of a certain person is removed or damaged, when such a person sees the same wolf their brain will not produce fear, they would only know that there was a wolf. The normal person would run, but this person would not. We ordinarily call people whose emotional response is different than ours a “fool.”
Our brains are linked to the images we see, and many memories are correspondingly stored, smells, tactile sensations, sound and temperature for example.
Under normal circumstances, our judgment of images and emotions is linked; the issue is really, what emotions are associated with which images. (more…)