Relating – It’s All About Ya

Category: Film / Multimedia, Fine Arts, Installation

I have just spent a week visiting Melbourne and during that time I was fortunate enough to stumble upon one of the best exhibitions I have seen in a very long time. Currently showing at the National Gallery of Victoria are three video installations by Chinese artist Wang Gongxin. I have seen one of Gongxin’s video installations before, but otherwise am a complete novice on his work.

Gongxin comes out of the conservative Chinese art world. Having studied social realism, a form of propaganda art that was endorsed during and continued after the end of the cultural revolution, Gongxin’s practice swiftly shifted to video installation after a stint teaching in New York. The exhibit at the NGV in Melbourne showcases three works, two of which I have shown above. All three are incredible but Relating – It’s All About Ya  2010 (top set), is probably one of the most affronting and immersive video installations I have seen. Documenting the fast paced existence of humanity in China’s Beijing, the frenetic film is projected across 11 giant screens, timed and choreographed to create an encapsulating and exciting sequence. Beginning with the sound Ya, the film starts with a traditional chinese warrior. This quickly moves through to a teapot, floating fabric, vibrating coins, wobbling flabby bellies, jittering high heels and finally, a pulsating white wigged head banging dancer that morphs into trancing older woman. The installation is incredibly captivating, I watched it fully through four times, and likewise did the young kids who were running from screen to screen around the gallery.

The second work (bottom set), Basic Colour 2010 uses five elongated projected screens, each with a detail of the human body. A hand, an ear, the contours of an arched back, are all set against a soft grey background. These bodies become almost like abstract landscapes, only to be made more so by the covering and then unveiling by colour pigment and water. Unlike Ya, Basic Colour is slow and hypnotic. The colour and detail of this piece is incredibly beautiful and allows you to draw into the work in a completely different manner to the rooms either side.

Wang Gongxin’s training in social realism built a foundation of art making around the elevation of the ordinary working man. His work since the regime fell continues on this same path but without the confounds of the idealized propaganda aesthetic. The fake-ness has gone and what’s left is a body of work that deals with this subject in a truly honest and beautiful way.

If you’re in Melbourne, or are there before the 28th September, make sure you take the time to see this one. Wang Gongxin at the NGV, get in there asap. But if you’re not and want to see the full installation video, click here and head under ‘selected works’. Gongxin graciously allows you to watch the full video under the title of each work.

Logan Bradley

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Santa Fe University of Art and Design

Santa Fe, New Mexico
http://www.santafeuniversity.edu/

Relevant Courses:

Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Studio Arts
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Studio Arts
Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Moving Image Arts (Film/ Video)

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Ai Wei Wei at Lisson Gallery

Category: Fine Arts, Installation, sculpture

We’ve seen a lot of marble used over the past year in furniture, product and graphic design, and even in fashion as digital prints. Here it is used by artist Ai Wei Wei in what is perhaps the most apt manner—for the purpose of social critique. Ai Wei Wei has risen to international prominence despite (and also due to) his widely-criticized 81 day detainment by the Chinese authorities in 2011, and has since continued producing work—even though he is barred from traveling overseas to be present at his own shows, with his passport still being withheld by authorities. His commitment to social activism and the protection of free speech is laudable, especially since politics and art are seldom a successful mix.

His current show at Lisson Gallery in London is largely made up of meticulously sculpted objects, sparsely arranged, some encased in glass display cases. His photographic series Study of Perspective, depicting him giving the middle finger to various structures of power around the world, dilute what may appear to be a serious museum display with a touch of cheeky humour. A good sense of humour is surely needed for someone in his situation, and the rest of the aesthetically beautiful objects point to some of the problems he encounters in the homeland he is bound to. A conglomeration of bicycles harks back to the days when Beijing was famed for this mode transport, now overtaken by cars and pollution. The gas mask, immortalized in marble, serves as a sinister warning. Highly personal items intermingle with those of wider cultural and political significance. There are handcuffs and coat-hangers, re-created from crystal, jade and huali wood, that refer to his detainment. Traditional lanterns and replicas of his father’s armchairs carved from heavy marble. Glass replicas of taxi window cranks are a puzzling sight, until we find out that these have been banned from Beijing taxis, in order to prevent passengers from distributing protest leaflets.

Every object in this exhibition is charged with cultural and personal references it is up to us to research further and decode. It’s an unapologetic display of dissent towards the authorities, but also a narrative of Ai Wei Wei’s experiences and struggles as an individual. The exhibit will be on until 19 July, but Ai Wei Wei is also the subject of a major retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum until 10 August.

Anna Tokareva

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Santa Fe University of Art and Design

Santa Fe, New Mexico
http://www.santafeuniversity.edu/

Relevant Courses:

Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Studio Arts
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Studio Arts

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NABA Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti

Milan, Italy
http://www.naba.it/

Relevant Courses:

Bachelor of Art in Painting and Visual Arts
Masters of Art in Visual Arts and Curatorial Studies

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RAD Lab’s Pocket Park

Category: Design, Fine Arts, Industrial design, Landscape design

Renee first wrote about NewSchool of Architecture + Design’s graduates’, RAD Lab, featuring their concept for an urban park in San Diego’s East Village as it reached its funding target on Kickstarter in October last year. The project, named Quartyard, has since been progressing towards fruition. You can check out their Facebook page for updates on the process. In the meantime, while this larger project comes together, RAD Lab has been mighty busy, creating a smaller “pocket park” on an ex-carpark lot in East Village. The space has been kindly loaned by real estate company HP Investors to Downtown San Diego Partnership for one year. They invited RAD Lab to design a space to be used by the local community. In a place where parks are lacking and the number of urban residents is on the up, this is an important development.

RAD Lab went through a simple but effective consultation process with the local community-a board with the question “What do you want here?” installed on the site, inviting a written answer. They consolidated the most common (and realistic) responses to create a flexible-use space with ample seating, a mural by a local street artist Christopher Konecki and a fun giant game of word-search spread over the ground. Recycled pallets have been used for seating and tree planters, and to give support to a vertical herb garden. The re-appropriation of industrial materials, such as pallets, crates and shipping containers has become a bit of a signature move for RAD Lab. It’s a perfect solution to the short-term lease spaces their projects occupy, that is easy to install, remove and reuse again and again. They are doing a great service to their community by taking part in initiatives to revitalise vacant lots in the middle of the city. I look forward to seeing Quartyard completed and enjoyed in the coming months!

Anna Tokareva

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NewSchool of Architecture + Design

San Diego, California
http://www.newschoolarch.edu/

Relevant Courses:

Bachelor of Architecture
Bachelor of Landscape Architecture
Bachelor of Arts in Architecture
Bachelor of Science in Construction Management
Master of Construction Management
Master of Architecture
Master of Science in Architecture
Master of Landscape Architecture
Masters in Interior and Living Design

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Art Basel: Unlimited

Category: Fine Arts, Installation

Sam Falls @ Galerie Eva Presenhuber. Images: Art Basel.

Rosemarie Trockel @ Gladstone Gallery, Sprueth Magers Berlin London. Images: Art Basel and Conceptual Fine Arts

Sabine Hornig @ Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art. Images: Art Basel.

Xu Zhen @ Long March Space. Images: Art Basel and We Find WildnessAlice Channer @ The Approach. Images: Art Basel.

Art Basel has been dubbed the Olympics of the art world, being one of the most anticipated art fairs. Held at three separate locations over the year: Basel, Miami and Hong Kong, the 2014 season has began with Basel, Switzerland. With over 300 galleries showcasing artwork over four days, it can all get a bit overwhelming. So, I am focusing on Art Basel Unlimited—the section dedicated to presenting artwork that fails to fit into the standard art fair cubicle format. Unlimited is curated by Gianni Jetzer and includes installation work, sculpture, video projection and performance.

A few artworks have caught my eye, for different reasons. Alice Channer’s long crisp drop of fabric, printed with a snakeskin texture looks like a giant stocking, or deflated python, ready to pull you in and eat you up. Sam Falls’ huge orange canvas sheet carves up the grey gallery space like a smily beam of the sunshine that was used to create the artwork. An irregular pattern has been created on the fabric by placing dozens of wooden pallets along its length, letting the spaces between fade in the sun. Falls’ abstract art is earthy and process-based, a welcome departure form the norm in this category.

Frontier favourite Rosemarie Trockel disrupted the space on a smaller scale, but with no less impact. Her 2012 installation, “As far as possible” includes an upside-down plastic palm tree, hanging from the ceiling, along with a monochrome copy of Courbet’s “Origin of the World,” adorned with a hairy tarantula. It’s brilliant and humorous, but also delightfully creepy. The sterile white-tiled walls and a cage of mechanical singing birds add to the unease. Xu Zhen has also turned things on their head, literally in his case. In an effortlessly clever move, Zhen has married replicas of classical Hellinistic and Buddhist sculptures by physically placing the figures of the East upon the headless bodies of the West. The result is both ridiculous and thought provoking.

More of an immersive work, Sabine Hornig’s installation creates a superficial but dislocating environment. Wooden frames, resembling architectural substructures are stretched with sheer polyester fabric that’s printed with overlapping photographs of interior and exterior elements of buildings. The appearance is that of a reflective surface, but soon the gaze travels beyond the thin material, adding further layers to image, in the form of the physical surroundings of the exhibition space.

Art Basel may run over a brief period of time, but it’s a great way to find new exciting artists, and be reminded of the masters of the 20th century. You can see the full list of participating galleries and artists here.

Anna Tokareva

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Santa Fe University of Art and Design

Santa Fe, New Mexico
http://www.santafeuniversity.edu/

Relevant Courses:

Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Studio Arts
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Studio Arts
Creative Writing and Literature Bachelor of Arts (BA)

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NABA Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti

Milan, Italy
http://www.naba.it/

Relevant Courses:

Bachelor of Art in Painting and Visual Arts
Masters of Art in Visual Arts and Curatorial Studies

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Venice Biennale of Architecture 2014—British Pavilion

Category: Architecture, Installation, Interior Design

Korea deservedly won the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Biennale of Architecture. Their ambitious research project aimed at understanding and surveying the field of architecture in both South and North Korea over the last Century. The Silver Lion went to Chile, who have been gaining prominence in the the international architectural scene of late. Their sombre installation, bravely singular in focus, takes the prefabricated concrete wall as a point of departure.

The theme, set by curator Rem Koolhaas, was Absorbing Modernity, 1914-2014. The responses vary, from literal timeline-based overviews of architecture during these years, to more experimental explorations and approaches that look at particular aspects of modernist influence not only at a national, but a global scale. The British Pavilion Clockwork Jerusalem, particularly, has captured my attention. Their showcase adds a very welcome element of playful wit to the Biennale.

The exhibition looks at the appearance of the New Towns in the United Kingdom—conglomerated townships created in the post-war decades to mitigate an overflowing population. Presented amongst models of buildings and posters of plans are manifestations of British culture over the years, from pop music to literature, art and prominent architects. The title, Clockwork Jerusalem, references Anthony Burgess’ novel, A Clockwork Orange (and Kubrick’s film of the same name) and the poem Jerusalem by England’s beloved poet William Blake. This mash-up gives the pavilion an ominous air, despite the colourful panoramic mural inside the main room, the blobby orange typography and the quirky cows guarding the entrance. It speaks to the failed utopias of the past and the possibilities of the future. The curious mound of dirt with fluorescent pink stairs is a nod to similar monuments erected as part of housing projects. From the top the viewer can observe the mural upon the walls—like a king from the top of his stronghold, admiring the lay of his land.

The exhibit is curated by Sam Jacob from the architectural studio FAT and Wouter Vanstiphout from Crimson Architectural Historians. Each element in the show has references to British history and culture that I’ve had fun decoding, and I would encourage you to spend some time with it too.

Anna Tokareva

Images: Dezeen

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NABA Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti

Milan, Italy
http://www.naba.it/

Relevant Courses:

Masters in Landscape Design

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Domus Academy

Design and Fashion School in Milan, Italy
http://www.domusacademy.com/

Relevant Courses:

Masters in Interior and Living Design
Masters in Urban Vision and Architectural Design

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NewSchool of Architecture + Design

San Diego, California
http://www.newschoolarch.edu/

Relevant Courses:

Bachelor of Architecture
Bachelor of Landscape Architecture
Bachelor of Arts in Architecture
Bachelor of Science in Construction Management
Master of Construction Management
Master of Architecture
Master of Science in Architecture
Master of Landscape Architecture
Masters in Interior and Living Design

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