Saturday, December 20, 2008

A brief not exactly about about 'Surfacing' + 2008 Micro Macro Mine, In No Particular Order

Phil Tanari wrote me and said

"Do you have any interest in doing a year-end "top ten" for the .cn website? I am trying to organize a half-dozen or so of the usual suspects to write up their picks a la the mothership so that we have some nice nuggets to feed into Angle for the holiday season. This would be somewhere between 600-1000 words total, a list of your top picks for exhibitions/artists/incidents/etc in 2008, accompanied by some photos."

The cn website is which, as I found out this past weekend (at the opening of "Surfacing" - a group painting show at the Shanghai Gallery of Art - ) actually does get read, and not only does it get read but the forum section, where a zillion Chinese art world blogs are linked, gets this here rad-ass blog some eye-action as well! Chen Jie, a young super funk painter dude from Beijing (via Sichuan where he studied with Zhang Xiaogang-who gave him and his lovely, equally as funked out, wife Li Shurui - who's also in the "Surfacing" show- a Blood Line lithograph for their wedding.) actually saw and read this blog- in particular, the Chinglish entry which may have been interpreted as being semi-critical... which in fact it might have been given my part time status as "CRITIC"

Anyway, The SGA show is very clever and
circuitous, in a David Chan kind of way, with painting looking as relevant as ever... or trying to look relevant, in that 'take me home and have your way with me', kind of way . Chen Jie makes one helluva departure from his earlier, more precious, Gerhard Ricteresque, KOK paintings. Here he's on a more rule-based, mathematical, formalism trip. One might even use the Zen word if they were that type of person. There's also some very enigmatic, very stuccoed, post impressist work by yet another painter's painter outa Shenyang - Wu GuangYu ... and they served hot-mulled wine at the opening, y'know for Christmas
Here is MY 2008 list which I'm not sure ever made it to the cn website

2008 Micro Macro Mine, In No Particular Order
Mathieu Borysevicz

Trying to mine ten memorable “art experiences” out of 2008 is not only arduous but something that misses the expansive points that contemporary art has been trying to make for the last forty some odd years- that life is far more interesting. One of the grand curatorial conceits of this year’s Guangzhou Triennial, Farewell to Post Colonialism is the fact that art practices today are endangered by a reality that is increasingly fanciful, increasingly confounded by an ever-expansive mass media and proliferation of nonlinear technology, something that curator, Gao Shiming identifies as the virtual world colonizing the real world. In my very non-linear list below, some of the entries are events that belong to this greater communal reality. While they are not art events per se, they are some of the most spectacular, image driven, cultural experiences that I (and you and everybody else) have witnessed, and which undoubtedly will influence the pristine domain of the art world.
Another point I’d like to make in compiling this tableau of events is that art, no matter how you play it, is a subjective game that ultimately resists quantification or qualification. There were countless events in 2008 that were important and influential but did not make my list because either I didn’t see it, didn’t want to see it or saw it and didn’t like it. Any notion that I will reinforce your own convictions of taste will be disproved by this very biased list. My 2008 was indeed just that, mine, like it or not.

2008 in no particular order:

Baby Rats
2008 was the year that I, and many others in the Chinese art world became parents. While procreation encompasses a surfeit of physical, emotional and psychological experiences that contemporary art will never achieve, it will certainly inflect the practices of these new parents with a more life-affirming, humble, and purposeful approach to things. Stay tuned for enlightened changes from: artist, Yang Zhenzhong and writer, Lu Lei; artists, Xu Zhen and Feng Zhengjie; the Beijing based German photographer, Roland Fischer; Continua Gallery’s Qiu Keman, curator Tang Xin and artist/designer Xie Wenyue; critic, Carol Lu and artist, Liu Ding, and the countless others who became parents in 2008. Viva Procreation!
.... and WAIT this just in - Michael Lin and Heidi Voet just had twins!!!! Yahoo join the club

The Sichuan Earthquake was a humanitarian disaster that spectacularly mobilized millions, the art world included. Not only did several artists (including myself, Ai Weiwei, Zhao Bandi, Hu Xiangcheng and Luo Ping, etc.) personally visit the devastation but countless money was raised by impromptu art auctions and other art world contributions. From a formal point of view the media’s role in galvanizing the masses was epic. The grand, theatrical narrative of devastation, conspiracy and bereavement played out for months across a myriad of media in China and around the globe. On televisions, billboards, and the internet real life tragedy was transformed into fiction and vice versa. Premier Wen Jiabao cried, heroic soldiers rescued and countless victims were and are still mourned.
In this accelerated age of incessant media clamor and digital instantaneity the world, and hence our consciousness, overflows with photographic images. It would be impossible to estimate the amount of photographs that are produced everyday or even every second on this planet. Biz Art’s Hipic takes an imaginary stab at this enigma. Hipic is a computational machine that recycles digital images as a communal, time based, artwork, both online and in public, one minute at a time for the rest of time... or as long as participants contribute to the piece. At the time of writing this, Hipic was one year, three months, nine days, fifteen hours and seven minutes old- or close to 600,000 images long. Online or in public installations Hipic’s images progress in an illogical, though steady stream, one minute at a time, forming an ambience of constantly changing vistas.

2008 Olympics
Looking back it’s funny how much a thing of the past the Olympics are now. Was that August or 1999? Now matter how much we’d love to forget the Olympics, it has became an integral part of contemporary culture, not only in it’s employment of some of China’s most famous artists but in its omnipresent hold on our consciousness’. While the pre-Olympics Olympics formed an ideology based on magnitude, national pride and promise, the Olympics itself, from the architecture to the over anticipated, super elaborate, CG embellished opening performances to Liu Xiang’s tragic Achilles heel injury - which threw the entire nation into a psycho-analytical blame game, to the surreality of its closing ceremony- accented by Led Zeppelin’s aging guitarist, Jimmy Page playing “Whole Lotta Love” atop a transforming double-decker bus, the Olympics were truly a feast.

Comfortable Show, Shanghai
The critic Gao Minglu in his Inside/Out exhibition, identified a movement within early nineties Chinese art as “Apartment Art”. No matter how well this label fits the work of artists who basically had no other venues at the time, Shanghai was host to its own version of apartment art this Autumn. Amidst the hoopla of the Shanghai Biennial and the second incarnation of SH Contemporary, artist, Jin Shan and others organized a small but very refreshing exhibition inside an old lane house apartment in Shanghai’s French Concession. The exhibition seemed to begin well before reaching the venue itself, in the laundry-strewn alleyways and slightly dilapidated halls that doubled as communal kitchens. The event’s casual, DIY strategy was antithetical to the other art events in the city at the time. An installation of visitors’ shoes (Lu Yonglei) greeted newcomers to the exhibition while people dressed only in red imitation Calvin Klein undies and printed white t-shirts (Alexandre Ouairy) lounged about everywhere. An air conditioner unit installed inside out heated up the space and leaked water all over (Jin Shan), while in another room a floor of cushioned tiles (Tang Dixin) made walking impossible. The lived in, funhouse aspects of this exhibition gave the participant a feeling of being part of a teenage fantasy experiment rather than an exhibition.

Playing the Building, David Byrne’s Creative Time NY
David Byrne is one of those artists who traverse different mediums and forms with exquisite ease. With operas, films, music production, music curating, books, blogs, furniture, photography and The Talking Heads behind him what else can he possibly do? This summer as part of Creative Time’s ongoing series of public works, Byrne transformed lower Manhattan’s Battery Maritime Building into an interactive musical instrument. Opening at the same time as Olafur Eliasson’s much hyped, 15 million dollar waterfall installations, Byrne’s piece instead used low key, lo-fi technology to magically resuscitate a dilapidated building. The piece was composed of a reconfigured antique organ from which plastic tubes strung out in an elegant web and attached to various parts of the cavernous building. When the organ’s keys were pressed air pumped through the tubes eliciting various clanking or blowing noises from the building’s nineteenth century structure and delighting participants.

Intrude: Art & Life 366, Zendai MoMA
Zendai Museum’s Intrude: Art & Life 366 series was a little too ambitious to really succeed. The project’s goal was that for the 366 days of 2008 a different artwork would intervene in Shanghai’s public realm. It was an earnest attempt to cross breed reality with the esoteric realm of contemporary art, to infiltrate new territories and reach new audiences. Art & Life 366 was a good idea but very difficult to manage, promote, document or realize in general. Having said this, 366 saw a formidable slew of local and international artists working in areas that they have hitherto never been for audiences that never expected it. Some of Intrude’s highlights included Vibeke Jensen’s nighttime video projections on Shanghai’s cultural institutions, Bai Yiluo’s oversized human heart being driven around on the back of a tricycle cart, Yoko Ono’s Instructional pieces and Yang Yong’s photographs as subway posters, Utopian Group’s museums in private homes project, etc., etc.

The US Presidential Election and Obama Mania
Need I say more?

Learning from Hangzhou at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, NYC
I play many roles in the art world: critic, curator and artist. In the age of plurality multitasking is certainly allowed. I approach each role with equal vigor and try my best to avoid collisions. Oddly though, as a critic I am constantly asked which artists I like most. I have pondered this question many times but always draw the same conclusion… me. If I didn’t think this I would probably not make art anymore. I told you that I was biased, didn’t I? But in compiling this list as a critic I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t include the installation, Learning from Hangzhou at Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC. Learning from Hangzhou is a case study of urban phenomena, especially as it concerns the relationships between construction, advertisements and architecture. It just so happened that Storefront was renovating its façade this summer and the piece, which consists of thousands of images and text, was mounted as a billboard on the 140foot long construction blind. The opening was held inside the blind and on the street, literally in the transitional zone of construction site and public space (exactly the crux of the project), which along with the proximity to New York’s Chinatown heightened the work’s sense of site-specificity.

East of Que Village, Yang Fudong at Shanghart
David Velasco in writing about the same exhibition for the same publication called East of Que Village “a ravishing study of antagonism on the fringes”. MoMA curator Barbara London confessed in conversation that she thought that the piece was the artist’s most political and personal to date. After seeing Yang Fudong’s East of Que Village I’m still not exactly sure what either of these comments mean, but somehow they both seem accurate. Wild dogs are the protagonists in this bleak, six screen, video installation. While a pack of dogs scrape the sustenance out of a dusty, barely populated northern town, an oddly hierarchical group dynamic emerges amongst them. Perhaps the dynamic is one that we project upon them, as survivalists ourselves.

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