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

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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.

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

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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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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

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