All in a few hours daubing…
Standing on his stepladder in proletarian garb, he was mistaken by most visitors for a workman doing a touch-up job. But in under two hours, with nothing but a Home Depot brush and a bucket of common black paint, Qiu Zhijie turned out the classic waterfall scene you see above, on UCCA gallery’s information wall.
Qiu Zhijie likes the waterfall concept, but has about as much interest in producing classic Chinese art as Wolfgang Puck has in making grilled cheese sandwiches. For that matter, he and his seven compatriots, the stars of Breaking Forecast: 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation Artists, are far enough in the vanguard to confuse many foreign Chinese contemporary art collectors, who still think cutting edge is Mao in a tutu, or an obvious allusion to Tiananmen Square.
Not that these cutting edge artists aren’t political, rather their viewpoints are now global, their work informed by anything you can find on the Internet, anywhere you can go on a Boeing jet. According to the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, the forecast calls for unpredictable weather, and curious signs in the sky.
All the People I Thought of On October 30, 2009
Now this is Qiu Zhijie’s idea of a waterfall, a seven-meter length of old railroad track leading up to a platorm from which oil (actually black ink) spills. Crows perch ominously about, while on the wall behind, Qiu has written the names of family, friends, classmates, and colleagues with a low-tech trick of the flashlight.
Sense of Empire, 2009
Zheng Guogu calls this a “sensitive artwork”, in that the panels slide back and forth to let viewers through. The pictures on the panels, as well as the videos of fish ponds and sparkling grass inside, are footage of the manor he has carved for himself in the side of a mountain in Guangdong province.
Yeah, you could probably leave a pile of brick rubble in the middle of UCCA, too. But MadeIn alone had the art to make sure an enormous waterbed is buried beneath. Plus the soundwaves, represented in iron on the walls behind, came courtesy of Osama Bin Laden, according to MadeIn, who could tell you his real Chinese name, but then he’d have to bury you under the rubble with the waterbed.
More art that won’t work in your living room. If these four codgers seem a mite disoriented, know that you would be too, had you floated a mile in their shoes. San Yuan and Peng Yu crafted the old men, then threw them off Liverpool’s Albert Dock just in time for the city’s 2006 Biennale. PR as well as conventional artists, San and Peng managed to launch a rumor that they were effigies of the Fab Four, causing no end of consternation to local police, and the chairman of the Biennale.
Authorities fished the dummies out of the water. Undeterred, San and Peng took them on a truck-top tour of Liverpool. According to Peng, they are still “looking for a place.”
“Each person thinks of one thing; when putting them together, an expressive relationship will be built in between.” That’s a pretty vague way to express the significance of a machine that blows massive smoke rings every few minutes, and a Chinese broom spinning madly to fan them away. We think it’s a bold statement about women’s work in China and the legions of heavy smokers who make sure it’s never done.
Working in a medium usually enjoyed most by dogs, rawhide, Liu Wei manages to take the viewer on a tour of western architectural history. Liu focuses on religious structures, from the Parthenon to the Vatican, as well as what he terms “contemporary signifiers of faith”, such as the U.S. treasury and Guantanamo Bay.
In Just a Blink of an Eye, 2005
Ahh, finally, some zany performance art. Xu Zhen claims that his work “draws on the uncertainty of a given posture within a given context. Before they fall the represented people may or may not be rescued by unexpected factors.” If those kids have been posing since 2005, they’re far past rescuing; they’re medal candidates. Talk about sacrificing for your (or someone else’s) art.
Dawn Mist, Separation Faith 2009
A cavernous hall with half a dozen screens, each showing snippets of what look like old Shanghai movies, but with suspiciously modern elements. What could it mean? Yang Fudong is exploring what happens after the loss of religion, and how we react to the “tongue of the snake”. “When the snake flicks out its tongue, it indicates a threat. As the threat approaches, do you still retain your beliefs? In that instant, how do you judge?” Yang asks.
RMB City, 2008
We’ve told you before about Cao Fei and her adventures on Second Life. For those of you who prefer 4-D to the Internets, Cao Fei has been kind enough to mold one of the mountains from her cyber-city, into which you can walk and explore RMB City interactively.
Breaking Forecast: 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation Artists runs at UCCA through February 28, 2010.