Collection: Part 3

Research

Gallery visit: Tate Modern

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Lightning With a Stag in its Glare, Joseph beuys1958-85, image from online

Taken up the space of an entire room, this installation by Joseph Beuys struck me with its dramatic effect and primordial power. The arrangement of elements in this mysterious grouping suggests a natural site, like a forest , in which the stag (represented by an ironing board resting on wooden legs)the excremental forms of the“primordial animals, and a goat (the hapless three-wheeled cart) are illuminated by a powerful lightning bolt (the weighty triangular form that hangs precariously from a beam). I was really impressed by the way Beuys turned ordinary objects and common materials such as bronze and clay into an immersive and dramatic moment fully loaded with symbols as well as natural energy. When I'm standing in front of the installation, I cannot help but imagine myself as one of the diminutive, wormlike animals scattered on the ground, exposing myself to the mighty power of nature.

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Janet Cardiff

The Forty Part Motet, audio installation

The sound art artist worked with the Salisbury Cathedral choir to record 40 individual singers, playing each voice through its own corresponding speaker. The speakers are carefully positioned to create a circle which is a respond to the striation of Tallis's vocal piece, Motet. Visitors are encouraged to walk among the speakers to hear the individual voices talking, whispering, and singing. They can also sit at the centre of the circle and listen to the immersive sound of the choir. Cardiff said: "I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path though his physical yet virtual space."

While viewing her installation at Tate, I was really fascinated by her idea of 'sound walk'. In the beginning, I walked around the speakers and heard different voices from individual speakers talking, interacting with each other; I almost feel like these singers are present at the place, surrounding us with their voices. It really opens up our imagination to space, as well as to the tangible and the intangible. When the choir started to sing it was really awe-inspiring, the effect was truly electrifying. The atmosphere was further enhanced by the dim atmosphere, intervening into our senses. 

Before I never thought sound art would have such a tremendous impact. Personally I feel this piece is even more provoking than some visual art installations. I would consider using sound to create immersive space in my future practices.

Reference: 

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/display/voices/janet-cardiff

http://bombmagazine.org/article/2463/janet-cardiff

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Otobang Nkanga

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Waiting You Go Do?, installation, 2015

An installation piece at Tate modern, consisting of concrete spheres connected to each other with heavy ropes. The balls also emitted sound of people talking and singing, shifting between stream of consciousness and profound philosophical statement spoken in different languages. The immersive experience is truly fascinating, even though I couldn't understand much of the talking I felt thought-provoking. 

 

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Song Dong

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Breathing, 1996

The photograph documented Chinese artist Song Dong's performance at Tiananmen Square and Houhai park in 1996. He laid down face first on the ground of Tiananmen Square under sub-zero conditions for forty minutes. As he breathed on the ground, he produced a break in the frost layer that disappeared soon after the performance was over. When he repeated the act on the frozen surface of Houhai, a small lake near Tiananmen Square, it remained unaffected from his breathing, symbolising the conflict between the individual and the establishment. The work has no audience other than a group of somewhat bemused policemen. Together, the two performances illustrate the artist’s desire to use his body to facilitate a change in the environment, regardless of its minimal impact. The work is a subtle one, nevertheless it is still an active marking and a personal reclaiming of politicised zone. The artist used his body to effect a slight change in his surroundings, calling upon the physical nature of the surroundings to respond to it. The performance reminds me of the context of Tiananmen Square, a place with heavy surveillance and high alert. Just like the nature responded shortly to Song Dong's breathing, in 1989 the government responded to the protests of students by simply running over them with tanks and troops. The incident happened precisely at this place. 

References: https://blog.escdotdot.com/2012/05/17/breathing-by-song-dong-2012-shenzhen-sculpture-biennale/

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/15/world/asia/tiananmen-square-fast-facts/index.html

Gladston, P. (2014). Contemporary Chinese art. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

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Wang Guangyi

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Porsche 2005 Oil on canvas

Chinese contemporary artist Wang Guangxi paints Cultural Revolution icons in the style of American Pop art. He combines imagery from propaganda and advertising. His work takes aim at the state-controlled art enforced in China during the 1950s-170s. As on of the artists emerged from the 85 new waves, Wang Guangyi playfully combined communist propagandas with Western consumerism, embracing logos for Mac Donald's, Coke cola and luxury brands. What is notable in Wang's painting is that it is usually fully stamped with numbers, resembling the vandalistic advertisement that are sprayed, stamped or stuck on walls in cities of China. In doing so, Wang flattens the image. Inspired by this, I created a linoprint with a text read '404 not found' and stamped it repeatedly onto a white background, thereby undermining the power and authority of China's censorship over the internet. 

References:

Grosenick, U. and Schübbe, C. (2007). China artbook. Köln: DuMont.

Gladston, P. (2014). Contemporary Chinese art. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/wang_guangyi.htm

http://www.artnet.com/artists/wang-guangyi/

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Nam Jun Paik

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Magnet TV 1965 installation

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 TV Buddha 1974 installation

Often recignised as the founding father of video art, Nam June Paik works across video sculpture, television productions, digital devices and installation. In March 1963, Paik held his first solo exhibition featuring televisions as an artistic medium, which was an unprecedented attempt. Paik keenly observed the aggressive invasion of digital technology into people’s lives, and made immediate response to the phenomenon. In the art community that has been occupied by Marcel Duchamp’s influences, Paik discovered his unique way to break the taboo.

Magnet TV (1965) is an iconic work of Paik, in which he put a magnet on top of a television. The magnet’s force of attraction hindered the electric signal of the tv and resulted in the abstract distortion of the picture on screen. The audience can move the magnet to cause endless variations on the forms. I like how he invites the audience to interact with the work, which anticipated the participatory nature of much contemporary art later on.

TV Buddha dated 1974 is one of my favorite of Paik’s work incorporating digital technology. It composes of a stone Buddha statue, facing his own projection on the television monitor that is placed on a pile of earth. The installation is an encounter between Oriental deity and Western media, two seemingly contradictory and polarizing cultural iconographies. However Buddhism also sets forth to explain the notions of universe, many of which coincided with today’s most advanced scientific theories.

References:

https://peachskinallergy.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/religion-and-technology-from-nam-june-paiks-tv-buddha-to-wang-zi-wons-bodhisattva/

https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/Nam-June-Paik

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/exhibition/nam-june-paik

http://collection.whitney.org/object/6139

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RE1ueYnSVc

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Zhang Peili

"Nowadays no other media are more popular and common than video. You can consider it as anything, a sculpture, a painting, or an installation. You can also regard it as a moment of your life or a fragment of one of your dreams."

Zhang Peili is undeniably a pioneer of Chinese video art and one of its most important representatives till this day. His work, which explores around the frailty of individuals,  reveals the forces shaping Chinese society and the lives of its citizens. Zhang uses mundane, repetitive actions and scenes to demonstrate the absurdity and destructiveness of ritualized behavior and social norms.

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           Document on Hygiene No. 3 (still), 1991.

In this video Zhang, wearing a pair of latex gloves, washed a chicken continuously for two hours until the chicken prostrate in obedience. The video seemed absurd, even a bit ruthless. However by forcing the chicken to undergo something against its will, Zhang related the action to China’s environment at the time. There were increasingly patriotic hygienic campaigns, which on the surface purported to be about hygiene, but they were in fact political. It controls people’s private lives. It is very difficult to trace any cultural symbols in Zhang's work. They are all about repetitive, mundane and everyday life activities. Yet I think his works engage sensitively with very specific social or cultural environments, while not taking superficial advantage of cultural symbols.

One of my many initial ideas for the outcome is greatly influenced by this piece of work. The idea was that I would make  a video that combines two clips together and plays them simultaneously. One of the two features myself hand making a barbed wire and in the other one I would deconstruct the barbed wire I just made. Deconstructing barbed wire is more difficult than making it, and so is the idealistic 'harmonious society' in China. anyone can fake a harmonious society through the control of media and people.

References:

http://www.leapleapleap.com/2011/11/in-search-of-the-alluring-the-art-of-zhang-peili/

https://frieze.com/article/zhang-peili

https://www.artsy.net/artist/zhang-peili

http://www.artnews.com/2017/05/05/breaking-and-entering-in-his-videos-zhang-pelli-destroys-and-restores-to-capture-and-emphasize-time/

Grosenick, U. and Schübbe, C. (2007). China artbook. Köln: DuMont.

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Valie Export

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Body Configurations, 1973

Female artist Valie Export placed her own body, and the female body in general, at the centre of her entire corpus of work. In this sequence of edited photographs, belonging to the series Body Configurations, 1972-76, she positioned herself in several points of the city of Wien and photographed herself reacting to the built environment around her. The artist crouched in corners, leaned against walls and lies around the roads. Some images were edited with line drawings as if to emphasise the geometrical comparison between her body and the urbanest environment. There is always a sense of tension in these photographs, caused by the uneasy and eerie poses of the artist. It's notable that there is always only one subject (Export) in the images, which creates a quiet but alienating atmosphere. 

Inspired by this series of photographs, I want to do an experimental performance in which I would use my body to raise a physical dialogue with industrial materials such as bird spikes and bricks. The idea is that I could convey a sense of physical displacement and restricted action through my photographs still.

http://www.nytimes.com/2000/03/03/arts/art-in-review-valie-export-body-configurations-1972-76.html?mcubz=1

http://loves.domusweb.it/body-configurations-by-valie-export-1972-76/

http://socks-studio.com/2015/01/25/adaptation-assimilation-imposition-body-configurations-by-valie-export-1972-76/

https://www.moma.org/collection/works/147166

 

 

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The Tianan Men Massacre

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image from book source

The 4th of June incident started from a protest at the Tianan Men Square in 1989, Beijing, which involved both workers and students who together called for greater government accountability, freedom of public expression and the return of industry to the control of the masses. The protests in Beijing continured for around 7 weeks. Initially, the government sought to negotiate with the protest leaders and agree to concessions. However as the students gradually gained more and more support and empathy from the public, they become a virtual threat that would cause severe consequences of growing public insurrection. Made the decision to suppress the protests, tanks and live fire pushed into the crowd, killing an unknown number of civilians and protesters. However, the exact number of deaths remained unknown to the public. After the incident, conservative numbers of the party seized control and imprisoned leading protesters, establishing strict controls over media and freedom of speech. These have remained in place right up till today.

This particular incident in Chinese history is the catalyst for the extreme autocracy in China, and this is why I did research on it. The heavy censorship and surveillance in China are precisely the cause.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/4/newsid_2496000/2496277.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01zwmrs

Gladston, P. (2014). Contemporary Chinese art. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

 

 

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Kendell Geers

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Brick, 1998

Inherited identity is key to Kendell Geers's work, which incorporate many artistic medium that has explicit reference to politics, such as razor-wire, bricks, newspaper, and even weapons. Due to this fact, many see Geers' work through their own frame of reference, which resulted in a superficial understanding of his concept. When I see this sculpture featuring a newspaper cutout stuck to the surface of a red brick, I couldn't help but make connotations between the brick and newspaper from my own experience and my own cultural identity. What I see from this work is perhaps what I am most concerned with, which is the control over media in China. Due to the simplicity of this sculpture the viewer may come up with various interpretations according to their own frame of reference. 

However, after I read the context behind the work, the work becomes more complicated than it appeared to me at first glance.  The text is actually taken from a brief newspaper article reporting that a family of six died of smoke inhalation in a domestic fire. Only the name of the police officer is mentioned while the victims remain anonymous. Thus, the artist’s memorial to the nameless family highlights the double death of the victims; in real life but also in the newspaper’s failure to acknowledge their identity as individuals.

I think the brick can be seen as a vehicle for the artist's memorial as it could be assiciated to houses but also to a source of violence. The white line around the brick is something that I overlooked. The artist made it identical to that drawn around the body of a dead person prior to an official police investigation.

Kendell Geers work's straightforwardness can cause shallow interpretations to his work, this is also mentioned at his official website, saying that ' People brought up in the West, with only a superficial awareness of the context in which it developed, often interpret the dimension of identity, those roots which are both the determiner and subject of the work, according to inappropriate criteria.' I think this phenomenon is actually very common across political art field. Explicit references to politics is a dangerous act but this is what I am going to make for the project. Whether the role of context as something that is crucial to the understanding of my work should appear in the form of long paragraphs of text next to my artwork is something that always prompts my thought.

 Reference:

http://www.kendellgeers.com/library/texts/210

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Source material: Julia Scher Talk

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Compression of identity over time?

Wearing pink uniform in live performance to differentiate herself from a normative security guard, Pink is the colour of being gay in the 80s, of children and innocence and vulnerability.The performance Julia as guard in pink plays with and brings up notions of protection and threat, trying to understand mediation of guards of blue through other colours. 

The syntactical break between security and non security was of an interest of Julia.

Inspiration: looked at hidden places such as dump sites, polluted areas, industrial zones and prisons

Perdictive Engineering:  Durational aesthetics. It is a multifaceted project with surveillance camera and screens installed at the museum recording live images of visitors mixed with fake ones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-Gs_9KszOQ

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Alfredo Jaar

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One Million Finnish Passports, 1995

Contemporary artist Alfredo Jaar stacked 100000 replicated Finnish passports on the floor, which could only be viewed behind a thick glass wall, reminiscent of prison. The work is a response to Finland’s immigration policy, one of the most inflexible in Europe, particularly in comparison with that of neighboring Nordic countries. The massive quantities of passports, each bearing the possibility of a new life left unled, created an installation loaded with pathos.

Fascinated by how much impact can be created through the accumulation of identical objects, I purchased 15 engineering bricks for my final outcome, and will be allying them on the floor neatly, as a way to suggest a sense of conformation and pseudo social order. 

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Eva and Franco Mattes

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Dark Content

In the series titled Dark Content, the artists surveyed dozens of anonymous content moderators and discussed their experiences, from the most affecting videos they have encountered to the political implications of the removal of such content. Even if they left the job long ago, most workers can still recall the video that made them quit. The videos are normally 5mins long and are only released in dark net for viewers to watch, however I did found them in Youtube. In the videos I didn't really get to see the face of any of those moderators; they spoke with a computer generated voice-over on animated images of stock-image models.

It appeared interesting to me that companies like Youtube and Google entitle themselves as transparent search engine and yet they secretly hire workers to remove contents that are considered inappropriate. what is considered ‘difficult’ content is not just gross or violent, it is very often politically problematic. These companies often collaborate with governments to remove content. I think this art project is a great example of Foucault's idea saying that disciplinary power is intangible and omnipresent, and truth cannot be separated from power. The so-called truth is often produced and moderated by the regime of power.

http://dismagazine.com/blog/79632/i-would-prefer-not-to-include-my-name-eva-and-franco-mattes-2/

http://www.andfestival.org.uk/blog/interview-with-eva-and-franco-mattes/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v9GkQvgufs

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Michel Foucault on Truth and Power

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Maurizio Cattelan

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A Perfect Day, 1999

The work shows a middle-aged man being attached to the wall by adhesive tape, with his feet hang loose in the air. The painful-looking expression on his face creates a sharp contrast with the work title' A perfect Day'. The man, dressed in suits and ties also suggests his occupation and gives a narrative to this work.

https://www.perrotin.com/artists/Maurizio_Cattelan/2/a-perfect-day/5394

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Santiago Sierra exhibition at Lisson Gallery

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Impenetrable Structure, installation

 The Impenetrable Structure displayed at Lisson Gallery is a large-scale, site-specific installation by the Spanish provocative artist Santiago Sierra.The grid-like installation is constructed out of military razor wire, similar to what is used to create security borders between countries and in war zones. Sierra's work often deals with the political world, and confronts the workings of the global capitalist economy and the persistence of the division between the first and third worlds. Many address issues of individual freedom and the restriction of these freedoms through national identity, border controls and immigration policies. 

In this exhibition, Sierra divided the gallery space into tiny grids formed by barbed wire,making the place inaccessible. In Sierras previous work,  Space closed by corrugated metal, Sierra shuttered the newly opened location of Lisson Gallery for three weeks, blocking the entrance with a sheet of corrugated iron. Accordingly, the visitors who came at the opening were frustrated by the blockade. I felt a similar feeling when I came to Lisson Gallery to see his work; I was frustrated and wanted to go inside. Perhaps this is the feeling the artist wanted to evoke: to frustrate the viewer with borders and barriers, and eventually remind them of the political implication behind the work. Inspired by Sierra's work, I wanted to incorporate the use of barriers in my own practice,specifically barbed wire. Barbed wire can be seen as a metaphor for the great fire wall that is imposed against Chinese people's freedom of speech. I plan to explore the possible relationship between barbed wire and individual, how everyone in China is incapable of having their own voices heard by others.  

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2002/oct/11/art.artsfeatures

http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/reviews/santiago-sierra/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2002/oct/11/art.artsfeatureshttp://www.lissongallery.com/exhibitions/santiago-sierra--3

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/performance-santiago-sierra

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Francis Alÿs

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Painting / Retoque, 2008

The video documents the artist meticulously repainting the yellow line running down the middle of a road in the former American Panama Canal Zone, the territory joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In this case, Alÿs created a “found” painting in a public space charged with memories of past political conflicts. Combining painting with performance action, the gesture of wielding the brush became an act of healing and recalling memory in a traumatized territory.  Alÿs wanted to ask whether the role of poetry and compassion could be in highly charged political situations, while acknowledging that the relation of poetics to politics is always contingent. I am interested in the kind of radical art that has warmth and compassion. This is why Francis Alys's work drew my attention. His work is not as radical as some of the Avant-garde performance artists, and can be a bewilderment to many audiences. Yet there is a profound underlying message about humanity, individual action and impotence behind those seemingly purposeless acts. Inspired by this, I realised that my work does't have to be attention-grabbing and visually striking, as long as it reveals some genuine and cogent thoughts.

References: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/francis-alys/francis-alys-story-deception-room-guide/francis-alys-4

http://www.davidzwirner.com/artists/francis-alÿs/biography

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/oct/17/political-art-elitist-masturbation-turner-prize

http://francisalys.com/painting-retoque/

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Cildo Meireles

Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project 1970

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Insertions into Ideological Circuits 2: Banknote Project' 1970

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"My works are based on language. I try to distance myself from a pathological approach to art; that is, art as its author’s autobiography. Only an artist with a truly extraordinary history can produce autobiographical work that is worthy of interest. I prefer to think that some of my works can be made by anyone, at any time, in any place." -- Cildo Meireles

 Brazilian conceptual artist Cildo Meireles made a two-part project to explore the notion of circulation and exchange of goods, wealth and information as manifests of the dominant values in society. Unsatisfied with the studio-based , conventional system of art, Meireles found a means of disseminating art without the gallery system. The project was begun in 1970 during a period of intense political oppression in Brazil, when Meireles started to put insertions of political slogans onto returnable Coke-Cola bottles. The insertion can only be visible when the bottle is filled, this way it can only be read by costumers but not the company. In doing so, the artist undermined the ideology of the company. Meireles also worked with banknotes, stamping on them with the question: ‘Who killed Herzog?', referring to the political murders made by the government. 

I think it is extremely clever to use commercial objects such as coke cola bottles and banknotes as the artist's medium for expressing political viewpoints. They are recruitable, worldwide, and have a really broad reach. In this case, Meireles's work is not just showcased in galleries, but spread around the country; anyone can see it and even participate in it. Just like what he has said in an interview, "The insertions are a negation of authorship, of copyright. They aren’t works of art, they are propositions for action and participation." 

Meirels's project take me onto a new approach of political art. Before I am bound to the idea of 'personal as political'. However, his circuit project has proven to me that a piece of work can be provocative and thought-provoking without the conspicuous presence of the artist. 

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/material-language

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/playing-system

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/who-is-cildo-meireles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_personal_is_political

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/meireles-insertions-into-ideological-circuits-2-banknote-project-t12530

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Exhibition: Rehearsals from the Korean Avant-Garde performance Archive

On 8th August 2017, I went to see the exhibition at Korean Cultural centre presenting Korean Avant-Garde performance art during the 60s and 70s. The exhibition consisted of various sources such as painting, sculpture, photographic and video documentations, texts and pamphlets. It features a group of most pioneering artists in Korean at that time, who articulated their practice with the term Avant-garde.

The late 1960s and 1970s was a period of the oppressive regime of the Yushin, or ‘restoration’ government. After the Korean war, Korea was split into two nations, however, the 'communist threat' sentiment was still hovering in the country.  It is said in the exhibition that 'Presenting work outside a recognised exhibition space could result in an artist being put under surveillance or even imprisoned'. What interested me is the similar political background of the artist at the time as that of Chinese artists in the 1980s. I wanted to see how these artists responded to the political restrictions through their performative artworks. 

 References:

http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/129797/rehearsals-from-the-korean-avant-garde-performance-archive/

http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/23/why-performance-in-authoritarian-korea

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presented artist: Lee Seung-taek

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Untitled, 2000s, Prints on vinyl fabric

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Wind-Folk Amusement, 1971, Cloths Performance

Of all the artwork displayed in the exhibition, I felt most fascinated by Lee Seung-Taek's work. There was a whole display of photos scrolling across an entire wall, presenting Lee's massive, site-specific installations, sensuous sculptures and performances. H is an interdiscinplinary artist who blurred the boundaries of painting, sculpture and performance, and was considered an pioneering figure of Korean Avant-Gard group. 

Lee was dedicated to negating the traditional idea of conceptual art. As a result, he is engaged in 'dematerialisation', working with transient materials such as wind, fire and water. Lee's work reminded me of the Mono-ha, an art movement emerged in Tokyo in the 1960s which was also interested with 'not making'. 

In one of the photographs displayed on the wall, there were scarlet-red fabrics being tied on trees. They fluttered in the wind. Considering the 'Communist threat' in Korea at the time as well as Lee's personal background as a North-Korea born artist, I think there is perhaps an underlying political indication in this installation/performance, which makes the context more profound. Lee's performances are very much like a dialogue with nature forces, yet there is still a political read into them. This happened to be very appealing to me. I also like the fact he merged different disciplines together, and this is what I try to achieve through this project.

References: 

https://www.timeout.com/seoul/art/seung-taek-lee-in-venice

http://www.galleryhyundai.com/en/?c=exhibition&s=1&gbn=view&ix=34

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-korean-master-seung-taek-lee-defies-conventional-notions-of-drawing-and-sculpture

http://www.flashartonline.com/article/seung-taek-lee/

http://www.suumproject.com/wp/?p=3253

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Andrei Molodkin

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Democracy,2008

I came across this artist in a book I borrowed from the gallery called Frozen Dreams -- Contemporary  Art from Russia. My attention was immediately taken by those politically charged installations, with bold texts attached to tubes in a laboratory-like room. The artist uses crude oil as the artistic medium , bringing the materials of a ubiquitous but secretive global industry into the gallery and prompting questions about the link between oil and identity in Russia and America. The starkness of the black oil streaming though the tubes to fill the text is a harsh alternative to the bloodstream in human vessels, making the viewer question the ultimate meaning of the word 'democracy' -- Revolution, liberty and democracy for all, but at what human cost? 

Text is an extremely provocative element in political art, but simply stating what you want to say is not enough. Moleskin successfully used texts in an unconventional way. I would consider to use text in my final outcome while trying to avoid making blunt but hollow statements.

References:

http://www.calvertjournal.com/opinion/show/640/molodkin_crude

http://artinrussia.org/andrei-molodkin/

Amirsadeghi, H., Vickery, J. and Bobrinskaia, E. (2011). Frozen dreams. London: Thames & Hudson.

 

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Zhang Dali

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Dialogue and Demolition, 1999

“This image is a condensation of my own likeness as an individual. It stands in my place to communicate with this city. I want to know everything about this city- its state of being, its transformation, its structure.”

---Zhang Dali

Chinese artist Zhang Dali spray painted graffiti on the streets and derelict buildings in the city of Beijing, depicting self-portrait bald head seen in profile. By doing so the artist reclaimed the demolished sites, forging a dialogue between himself and a Beijing of the past. I select this work because I think it is a successful example of artist's intervention with the environment. For my Barriers and Blockades project I want to take photos of the barbed wire being placed in different locations as my way of intervening the place. Zhang Dali inspired to me consider urbanest sites and derelict places.

Reference: Grosenick, U. and Schübbe, C. (2007). China artbook. Köln: DuMont.

Gladston, P. (2014). Contemporary Chinese art. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

https://www.artsy.net/artwork/zhang-dali-dialogue-and-demolition

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Ai Wei Wei

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S.A.C.R.E.D 2013

S.A.C.R.E.D is a six-part diaroma boxes composed of (i) S upper, (ii) A ccusers, (iii) C leansing, (iv) R itual, (v) E ntropy, (vi) Doubt, each depicting the daily life of the artist when he had been imprisoned by Chinese government in the cell for 81 days for alleged tax evasion. Ai Wei Wei's experience as a Chinese citizen being prosecuted by the government for his artistic practices and how he reacted to the unfair repressions deeply influenced me. The diorama boxes creates a claustrophobic sense, as the viewers could only peek through a tony hole to see the inside. The white LED light cast no warmth but only coldness. Ai Wei Wei is never depicted alone in each box. There are always several guards around watching him. The sense of being in constant surveillance is unsettling and terrifying. 

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surveillance camera 2006 marble

The theme of surveillance prevalent in Ai Wei Wei's work. The image above shows a surveillance camera carved in marble. Ai's works are often created using a very simple form and systematic method reminiscent of the conceptual and Minimal art of artists as Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd. The extreme regularity of the CCTV camera delimits its visual correctness,and as a result, the viewer must focus on the context and the nature of the materials of the work. Marble is a kind of precious carving material used for making delicate sculptures, often depicting human forms and gods. The marble CCTV camera thus seemed absurd; it's status has been elevated to the same height of that of Greek gods. 

Inspired by Ai Wei wei, I also chose to use surveillance camera for my final outcome as it is the most explicit association to my project theme. 

References:

Ai, W. and Horowitz, D. (2012). Ai Weiwei - according to what?. Munich [u.a.]: Prestel.

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/ai-weiwei-prison-dioramas-spain-336133

https://www.designboom.com/art/ai-weiweis-s-a-c-r-e-d-depicts-scenes-from-his-incarceration/

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Adam Dade and Sonia Hanney

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Stacked Hotel Room No. 10, 2002

Stacked Hotel Room is a art project by two artists, Adam Dade and Sonia Hanney;  they go into hotels, pack up all the furniture and photograph it. The artists check into a given hotel. They familiarize themselves with the room. They dismantle the room and then stack the furniture into a sculpture piece  without being discovered and without causing damage to its contents. The loaded nature of hotel rooms -- their in-between-ness, their efficiency on one hand and their hopeless aspiration to the condition of 'home' on the other -- makes them an ideal subject for Dada and Hanney. Through  rearranging, stacking, compressing, compacting, the artist transferred the room into a denser version of itself, suggesting a vast range of possibilities out of established order.

 I like this work because it is set in an ambivalent place that is both domestic and public, both nostalgic and monotonous. I have also experimented with intervening the domestic space with objects that have a menacing quality, to change its atmosphere. Just like the repellent spiky couch I made, the stacked furniture lose their original function and each of them became a part of the overall composition of the sculptural mass.

https://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/stacked-hotel-room.html

Dade, A. and Hanney, S. (2005). Stacked hotel room. Birmingham: Ikon Gallery.

https://acca.melbourne/exhibition/stacked-hotel/

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Christoph Büchel

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 Simply Botiful, 2006
Installation view at Hauser & Wirth 

Simply Botiful looks very much like interactive theatre or walking into an abandoned derelict hotel. Taking over a massive warehouse in London’s East End, Büchel has constructed his own universe of a dystopian place crammed with garbage, discarded electronics, broken fridges, dirty mattresses, etc. The scenarios and settings Buchel have created are intended to provoke deep, unsettling feelings in the viewer and you've got to bring your own paranoias, fears and prejudices to the exhibition. The installation reminds me of Anselm Kiefer, whose work are often loaded with history and sense of loss. 

Büchel's rendering of a claustrophobic domestic space inspired me to look deeper into the potential of domestic place to evoke a disturbing and uncanny feeling. Using my own living space as the medium, I have put bird spikes on sofas and stairs, built brick wall in the middle of the living room as a way to invade the domestic space.

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Julia Scher

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Surveillance Bed, 2003

I was really interested in Julia Scher's work due to her interest in challenging what is meant to be a private place like a bed and turning them into a public space by using cctv cameras. This creates a sense of anxiety for the person have their actions being watched in what is supposed to be a comfortable space. The juxtaposition of the patterned bed and the out-dated surveillance technology creates a sense of discomfort and and represents a society being watched and observed. The work explores the power dynamic between control and seduction, tension and relaxation, etc.

I was very interested in Scher's employment of artistic tactics and strategies to engage with the domain of surveillance and control, often in a low-tech or no-tech approach. The motifs of private and domestic space in her work also inspired me to experiment with intervening the domestic objects/ space with uncommon materials. 

 http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com/2016/02/julia-scher-at-natalia-hug/

http://www.juliascher.com/danger/index.html

 

 

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Mona Hatoum

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Performance Still, 1985

 The street performance by Mona Hatoum  consisted of the artist walking barefoot through the streets of Brixton for nearly an hour, with Doc Marten boots, usually worn by both police and skinheads, attached to her ankles by their laces. The artist stated in an interview that "the footwear is a  signifier of a measure or condition that keeps someone under control, a symbol of oppression."

I did a street performance in homage to Mona hatoum's performance. Instead of Dc Marten boots I attached two engineering bricks to my feet and walked on Great Portland Street where the China Embassy is located. Just like the boots in Haltom's performance, the bricks also have symbolic meanings here. Bricks represent conformity , and its weighty mass makes it an obstruction to walking.

 

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Home, 1999

 Hatoum transfered familiar, everyday, domestic objects such as kettles, iron pan, vegetable peelers into things foreign, threatening and dangerous. The work titled 'Home' consists of a collection of kitchen utensils, their gleaming polished metal quality is offset by their domestic function. To enhance the sense of displacement, Hatoum connected each utensil with electric circuit, periodically illuminating small light bulbs. The viewer is isolated from the installation by a barrier of thin wires. I was really fascinated by how she made these objects into potentially lethal things. Inspired by this piece, I searched for objects with menacing qualities, and found bird spikes, surveillance cameras, wires. These objects usually fall into the category of security equipment that are used to precent intrusions. The repellent nature of these objects determines that they are most commonly used outdoors. Therefore, I want to experiment with the juxtaposition of these security appliances with the domestic space.

 

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Foucault text analysis

Michel Foucault in his lecture on Truth and Power pointed out that power is a major source of social discipline and conformity. In shifting attention away from the repressive exercise of power, traditionally centred in feudal states to dictate over their subjects, Foucault pointed to a new kind of ‘disciplinary power’ that could be observed in prisons, schools and mental hospitals. Their systems of surveillance and assessment no longer required force or violence, as people learned to discipline themselves and behave in expected ways. 

In Foucault's statements, truth and power is a symbiotic relationship. Truth is 'produced and sustained' by the system of power, called 'the regime of truth'.  What interests me is that Foucault actually excluded China from his assumptions, due to the fact that he 'knows little' of China. I think this could perhaps suggest the fact that during the time of Mao's regime, power is still visible, and even repressive. The iron curtain between China and Foreign countries prevent truth from spreading, thus I think at that time, truth and power does not coexist, or at least in the surface.

Even in today's society in China, Foucault's idea of truth and power is still ahead of time to some extend. In China, power is not invisible; it's not universal or discursive. On the contrary, it's state-centric ( E.g China censorship). In my opinion, the symbiotic relationship between power and truth does not exist in a nation where there is no freedom of speech. The truth that are produced and modified by the state simply doesn't gain much trust from the people. Yet China is modifying itself, the practice of power is not restricted to censorship and surveillance any more; it extends into film industries, schools, media and many other things that makes us conform by our selves. This is also why I did a self-made barbed wire as a way to express how Chinese people want to escape the dictatorship and yet are in fact just another brick in the wall-- the wall of power.

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