» Archive for 31 October 2010
The following are curatorial texts included with the 8th Shanghai Biennale press packet, written by the Curatorial Team. They are unedited, but blue highlights thoughts that raised my eyebrow and made me think, enjoy! For Chinese language original, click on 中文 to the right.
What Is Rehearsal?
A Curatorial Thinking of the 8th Shanghai Biennale
The last two years have witnessed the latest global crisis. As if on cue, almost concurrently, an unprecedented crisis also befell contemporary art on a global scale. This one is no spiritual crisis experienced by modernists in the depths of their individual creativity, but a malarial torpor endemic to today’s world, or alternatively, a malaise of the system – the fact that the creativity of individual artists fails to match that of the system of artistic production, and by a wide margin. Artists cannot rid themselves of the sinking feeling that they are in the system’s employment, made to order by society at large. Everywhere we look, artists are cosplaying their roles. The 8th Shanghai Biennale raises the following question: What is suppressing and constraining the power of the heart in the economic and political context of contemporary art? Is it because of the ‘invisible hand’ of the art world? Or is it because of ‘trends’ in the international art market? Should we blame all the identikit mega-exhibitions worldwide? Or the omni-present mass culture? Artists are becoming more and more constrained and boring and we are dragged into a ‘post-history’ malaise. So how should we describe this state clearly? How can we get out of the dilemma of creation in the context of an art system constituted by seamless and endless international dialogue, mega exhibitions, art fairs and transnational capital? How do we identify the internal frontiers of the ‘art world’ hijacked by global capitalism while we are ourselves part of it? Is contemporary artistic practice capable of generating a new Produktionsverhältnisse – system of production – beyond the throttles of institutional critique and social participation?
The 8th Shanghai Biennale defines itself as a ‘rehearsal’ and as a reflective space of performance. ‘Rehearsal’ is not only a strategy or a special form of exhibition. It’s traveling art and opening to all the audience. ‘Rehearsal’ focuses on the full process of exhibition and on creativity itself. The exhibition hall is not only the medium for the artworks, but also a changing space that can trigger creativity. As Brecht has noted, “Actors in rehearsal do not wish to ‘realize’ an idea. Their task is to awaken and organize the creativity of the other. Rehearsals are experiments, aiming to explore the many possibilities of here and now. The rehearser’s task is to expose all stereotyped, clichéd and habitual solutions.” The ‘rehearsal’ of the 8th Shanghai Biennale is a self-performative act by the art world, a wake up call to itself and an attempt at self-liberation. Rehearsal is wielded against ‘performance’, ‘production’ and ‘discursive practice’. The responsibility of the curators is to differentiate, organize and then mobilize. Today many exhibitions are restricted in the theatre, but for this biennale, the theatre and rehearsal are not only spaces for exhibition, but methods of creation, exhibition and communication. We hope that the biennale will be able to promote interaction between artists. The elements of venue, narration and social participation have become key concepts in contemporary visual art, so we also hope that we can explore these areas in the mode of ‘rehearsal’.
As the space of communication between art and the public, the exhibition is like an enclave transcending everyday reality. It’s located within the quotidian, yet goes beyond it. Its mode of existence is not unlike that of the theatre. The exhibition is the theatre of contemporary art. The exhibition not only reformulates/represents everyday life, but also provides a vehicle for its own representative polity. It is the autonomous region of art, within which artists are also legislators. This is surely the most precious legacy of modernism. But why do artists still harbor doubts about exhibitions, even while they crave the opportunity to exhibit? Why are we still somewhat perplexed by artists’ reliance on them? For artists, the exhibition is fast becoming the primary venue of creativity, hijacking their work and transforming it into something systematized and automated. In the last decade, even institutional critique has become a standard trope in this industrialized art production. Even more worryingly, the exhibition - once art’s autonomous enclave in the public domain – has turned into a hub for production, exposition and consumption of global capital…
On the other hand, if art is indeed ‘an everyday practice’, then where is the need for the exhibition? Art as a social activity is a nexus that connects and shares inter-subjective encounters. It therefore aims to pit the group against the public, neighborhood against propaganda, and the mutating quotidian against ‘pop culture’ - that nebulous construction tailor-made and co-opted by media and the establishment, consisting of almost pure ideology. So, can the exhibition be considered the battleground for this antagonism? Or on the contrary, is exhibition, as art’s autonomous dominion, merely a theme park of little import trapped in the much larger and more real everyday space of social communication?
But the exhibition is not solely intended for communication between disparate subjects. It is not just a space for networking, release or realization. It is primarily a creative space. (more…)
Closing Ai Weiwei’s “seeds” to the public, for which it was intended, was the depressing sterilization of a great art work. (See report from the Independent here.) I’m torn between being a crabby Beijing resident who breathes similarly noxious air every day and says, “they ruined it,” and being a responsible, compassionate person. But looking through my photos of last week’s opening of “Sunflower Seeds,” I realized there was indeed quite a bit of particulate matter kicked up as guests happily crunched on the porcelain seeds. The dust was captured reflected in the flash of my Canon G11.
Recently, an American friend in Beijing told me about the fear of carbohydrates shaking down health/diet freaks in that nation. Here in 798, we scoff at gluten fears, and have produced a cross cultural dish that can put any fortune cookie to shame. Behold, the spaghetti dog: A toasted white flour bun brimming with crisp pan fried wheat vermicelli that has been tossed with bean sprouts and leek tips.This offering was spotted in an advertisement outside a small corner cafe in 798, the hot dog bun gives away its true identity as “Western food,” and testifies to the cosmopolitan nature of Beijing’s art zones. Wash it down, and kick yourself out of that digestive slump with a cup of pitch-black coffee. A little taste of “the West,” right here in 798. The photo is a photograph taken outside the restaurant. I did not indulge in the spaghetti dog.The artful placement of the two onion sprigs inspires me, I would love to treat any willing readers to a spaghetti dog. Just get in touch, this place sells churros too.
The 8th Shanghai Biennale “Rehearsal” began in June 2010, and will include four acts. Act I, the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” was in cooperation with the Long March Project, and will be implemented in Beijing from June through September, 2010.”Rehearsal Act I” takes the the Long March Project’s ongoing Ho Chi Minh Trail as a case study to verify the idea of “cultural creation” and explore the significance of paradigm shifts from “creation” to “rehearsal.”
This rehearsal will serve as a platform for artworks and ideas in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The rehearsal will also provide an opportunity to discuss the role of art and ideas in redefining the combination of “ego-history-society.” The Ho Chi Minh Trail includes stages of research (2008-2009), an educational forum (July 2009), field trips (June to July 2010), Rehearsal Act I (September to November 2010), the “theatre” (October 2010 to February 2011) and a later archive of knowledge. The “rehearsal” and “theatre” components will be included in the Shanghai Biennale 2010.
(the above was excerpted from an article by Gao Shiming, it will be included in the forthcoming “Art in China” magazine, published in co-operation with Contemporary Art & Investment and Iberia Center for Contemporary Art.
Wu Shanzhuan 吴山专