Speaking of now, back at the West Bund, be sure to check out Shanghart’s new space following its move from long-term digs in the gallery cluster at Moganshan Road. The inaugural show, which celebrates the gallery’s 20th anniversary as well as its new home, is titled Holzwege
, a term derived by philosopher Martin Heidegger to describe the overgrown, rarely trodden paths through forests that only those native to the environment will recognise. The exhibition looks back on the gallery’s pioneering history through the work of 30 artists, ranging from Chen Xiaoyun to Zhang Enli, via Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jörg Immendorff and Sean Scully. Meanwhile, over (about six hours south and a little bit west as the airplane flies) at Shanghart’s Singapore outpost, multimedia art and its representations of the ‘now’ take centre stage. The Dynamics
is a group exhibition featuring Hu Jieming, one of the pioneers of video and multimedia art in China, as well as compatriots Jiang Pengyi, Lu Lei, Shao Yi, Xu Zhen, Yang Zhenzhong and Zhang Ding, in an orgy of time-based artworks.
Not content with just having had a solo project (which ended in September and apparently evoked wilted blooms, carcasses and crumpled paper) in Paris’s Palais de Tokyo or with being included in the current Singapore Biennale, Filipino artist Patricia Perez Eustaquio is also having a November solo exhibition (Flowers for X
) in the city-state’s Yavuz Gallery. Milking it! Anyway, in Gillman Barracks (where Yavuz is located) the Manila-based artist will be continuing her meditation on objects that have reached the end of their useful lives, here via a series of painted tondos featuring flowers that have just passed their prime. Sound like something that belongs in sixteenth- or seventeenth-century interior design? That’s part of the point. It’s not just flowers that fade, but also artistic styles and tastes. And love, of course, if you want to be romantic about things. The antique flavour is enhanced by the fact that the flowers are rendered in an ‘unfashionable’ manner generally associated with classic Dutch still lifes. The result is both a memento to and warning about fashion, taste, consumption, ornament and the inevitable passing of time. Look out, Singapore.
Also meditating on the vagaries of chance and deploying art’s ‘old-fashioned medium’ is Singaporean artist Heman Chong (regular readers will know by now that it’s almost as compulsory for ArtReview Asia
to mention Chong in every issue as it is for it to bandy about references to Rirkrit Tiravanija), who has a hometown solo show, titled Portals, Loopholes and Other Transgressions
, at Fost. Alongside a series of four new large-scale paintings will be NO or ON
(2016), a sculpture that comes with the following instruction: ‘You can show the work as “NO” or “ON”: it’s completely up to you’. Rope, Barrier, Boundary
(2015) – a sculpture that was part of Chong’s 2015 exhibition at the South London Gallery – featured a rope and stanchions arbitrarily dividing the exhibition space into two parts, which visitors could cross if they wished: most wished not to. Chong’s upcoming show extend this investigation into the nature of intentionality and decision making in art, and the general exercise of free will.
Back in 2013, self-taught Indonesian artist Jompet Kuswidananto (he comes from a musical and performance background) won the Prince Claus Award with his theatre group Teater Garasi (a collective with whom he has worked since 1998), and one year later he picked up the Prudential Asian Eye Award for his performative installation work, which generally deploys sound, video, sculpture and interactive mechanical parts. Both aspects of his output will be on show in his solo exhibition at Singapore’s Esplanade. Jompet’s work takes theatre as the stage upon which the swings and roundabouts of Indonesia’s recent sociopolitical history (from the colonial to the post-1998 democracy periods) and the conflicts of globalisation are made manifest. That’s why this show is titled Theatre State
. Jompet brings to light frictions of governmentality (the governing and the governed), public and private space, and community dynamics in works that provide a less potentially kitsch alternative to the better-known (and more art-fair friendly) output of Javanese compatriots such as Heri Dono and Entang Wiharso.
Talking of the better-known, this November Kishio Suga brings a recreation of his 1973 work Placement of Condition
to Dia: Chelsea in New York; almost incredibly it’s the influential Japanese artist’s first solo show at a US institution. Perhaps it’s a sign of contemporary art’s terrifying quest for ‘nowness’ and novelty (though more likely that’s the result of laziness) that The Art Newspaper
trialled the work under the headline ‘Kishio Suga’s 70s throwback at Dia: Chelsea’, going on to describe how the artist was ‘resurrecting’ the work, which comprises a series of marble columns leaning in different directions but linked by wire that coils around the columns so as to fix them in a network of what looks like mutual support, as if this founding member of what became known as Mono-ha (the School of Things) were some sort of modern-day Dr Frankenstein. Other people might say that the work (fitting for Dia: Chelsea, housed as it is in a marble-cutting factory) was an apt material summary of the immaterial connections that bind societies together. But go check it out for yourselves; you should never trust journalists.
Simultaneously, Suga has his first European retrospective, titled Situations
, at Milan’s Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, the cavernous spaces of which host more than 20 of the artist’s installations. Look out among them for Critical Sections
, which has been reconstructed for the first time since 1984 and features strips of black and of white fabric, hung from the ceiling and interwoven with tree branches found onsite, the whole connected to zinc plates on the floor. ‘I bring a variety of things into the gallery, arranging them and giving them structure so that they occupy the entire space. The installations are never permanent and can be quickly disassembled or demolished. One might say that I create temporary worlds,’ the artist wrote in 2009.
Earlier on ArtReview Asia
mentioned that Joseph Beuys would make a natural inclusion in the Nanjing International Festival. In part because his concept of artworks as social sculptures is having something of a resurgence of late (to a greater degree even than the prevalence it has always had) and partly as a response to the fact that we live in a time when large parts of the world (Europe, the US and West Asia in particular) are subject to a politics that seeks a certain social atomisation. Or, following the lead of some of ArtReview Asia
’s colleagues at T** A** N********
, it might be because the artistic ‘throwback’ is in fashion – take your pick. In any case, one of the more prominent figures to engage with notions of social sculpture is Japanese artist Koki Tanaka. This month his projects, which take the social as a central methodology, will be on show at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Including works from a series where people with a shared profession or interest are asked to collaborate to produce an artwork, the exhibition, Potters and Poets
, gathers together A Poem Written by 5 Poets at Once (First Attempt)
and A Pottery Produced by 5 Potters at Once (Silent Attempt)
(both 2013), which will be here represented primarily by video documentation of the original performances. In the first project, five Japanese poets who write and compose in different styles work to produce a collaborative poem; in the second, five potters make a series of vessels. The end results are a mixed bag, but that’s the participants’ work, not Tanaka’s. He documents the negotiation (sometimes verbal, sometimes silent) between the participants and the means by which they engineer a final product (sometimes by one participant taking the lead, at other times through more egalitarian cooperation).
One show that, despite the most obvious reading of its title, claims to be steering away from memorialising any artistic ‘trends or phenomena’ is Tales of Our Time
at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Moreover, the seven Chinese artists and one artist group (Chia-En Jao, Kan Xuan, Sun Xun, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, TsangKin-Wah, Yangjiang Group and ZhouTao) whose work is on show seek to challenge fixed notions of place and the truth of official histories. The exhibition’s title derives from Lu Xun’s last collection of fiction, Gushi xin bian (Old Tales Retold
, 1936). In it, Lu Xun (the pen name of Zhou Shuren), one of the leading figures of Chinese modern literature, recasts ancient fables to critique social norms and highlight the problems of his era. In the exhibition, organised by Xiaoyu Weng and Hou Hanru, the artists will deploy various types of narrative that blur fact and fiction in order to illuminate and investigate social and political tensions worldwide and in particular the notion of China as a fixed identity.
Taking his own approach to notions of history and identity is Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich. Pich was born in Battambang, studied in Chicago (his family fled to the US in 1984, during Vietnamese occupation following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge) and has been based in Phnom Penh since 2002; trained as a painter, he is best known for creating sculpture out of local bamboo. The material qualities of a variety of local and found materials (which also include burlap, stone and rattan) remain central to Pich’s work: ‘They were the stuff of childhood memories,’ he has said in the past. As well as being the vehicles for an exploration of personal identity, these materials are, in this artist’s hands, a means of exploring narratives surrounding the contemporary social and political history of his homeland, while grounding them in the reality of daily life. His solo exhibition at H Space in Bangkok provides an opportunity to review past work and preview new experiments.
The relationship between art and life also features heavily in the work of Taipei-based Hong Kong artist Lee Kit, whose work, which began with his painting check patterns onto clothes, tablecloths and napkins (which he used) and has evolved into no less intimate installations and conceptual projects, operates on the borders of domestic/private and public space and confronts broader sociopolitical issues through objects that are right in front of him. Look for more of this mixing of the indirect with the direct in his third solo show (alongside painter Wang Yi’s first solo show at the gallery, featuring his colourful, trippy geometric abstractions) at Aike-Dellarco, who’ve recently moved to... yes, you guessed it: Shanghai’s West Bund. Now there’s a place that is beginning to have a fixed identity.
And just to ram that last point home, MadeInGallery, founded in 2014 by influential multimedia artist Xu Zhen (who also, since 2009, has operated as MadeIn Company, with Xu Zhen as a subbrand), has moved from Moganshan Road to Longteng Avenue, on the fringe of the West Bund development. This November Xu Zhen (the brand) opens Store
, a show retailing artworks, clothes and other objects created by the brand: all part of Xu Zhen (the person)’s ongoing investigation into the ways in which art circulates in a world dominated by a digital culture in which, in his words, ‘“sharing” provides the starting point for “owning”’. Look out for African tribal sculptures fused (at the groin) with manga dolls (new works from the artist’s Evolution
series) and some similarly bizarre paintings from his Losing Control
series (both 2016).
And so, to the end of this month’s art tour and the eternal return of the biennial: this time in India, at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, curated by Indian artist Sudarshan Shetty and titled forming in the pupil of an eye
. Shetty’s concept focuses on the location of ‘the contemporary’ through an examination of the notion of ‘tradition’ as an evolving rather than a stable motif, and breaking down specialist notions of art by featuring contributions by practitioners from a diverse range of disciplines, from visual artists and musicians, to performers and poets. Central to all this, and to the ethos of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale itself, is the notion that art exists within, rather than apart from, a community. In terms of his own work, Shetty has previously described a tactic of trying ‘to seduce with the familiar’, and to a degree one can see similar tactics in the work of included artists such as Ahmet Öğüt, Stan Douglas, Paweł Althamer, Praneet Soi, T.V. Santhosh, Charles Avery and Yuko Mohri. They’ll be showing alongside a ‘Student’s Biennale’ involving 60 Indian art colleges and ‘Art by Children’, a ‘children only’ event that aims at initiating the young in the appreciation of art, both as artists and as audience. With that kind of indoctrination, it looks like biennale-tourism will be an even bigger thing for generations to come.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of ArtReview Asia.