Daily Archives: October 1, 2016

This was the first time I had been to Chicago Expo, and really, any sort of art fair of its kind. I’m fairly new to the idea of the art world as a capitalist market, but I suppose, so is the art world (at least on the scale it has amassed to in the last thirty years or so). Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. On one hand, it was an opportunity to see the up-and-coming artists of our time in a fast-paced, very dynamic environment, but on the other, it was hard to get past the flock of rich old white people collecting bad, beaten-to-death art, and talking big numbers through wine-stained teeth. However, I saw some absolutely brilliant painting, although it was often shadowed by larger, more novel pieces. I suppose that’s the thing that really made me question the nobility of it: it was a lot of novelty and timely work, of pseudo-pop money-making artifacts, with more the conceptual, discomforting, and craft-oriented pieces left by the wayside. However, Kerry James Marshall’s talk did help me to reframe the lens from which I was viewing the art. He made a point about how the purpose of art is to present something to someone that they wouldn’t otherwise see. It was something which should have been obvious, but something which I hadn’t heard articulated so well in my art education. And so I suppose that there is a point to be made with the tacky CD-eyed portraits and giant slabs of acrylic. Their value lies in their funkiness. That is their point: to be present. So I’ll forgive them for that, even though I personally wouldn’t give them the thousands of dollars at which they were priced.
I suppose then, Expo taught me to broaden my perceptions on art, even though my taste might be quite different from the greater art community. But it wasn’t Expo that taught me this, it was the wisdom of a true master of our time. So, ultimately, Expo was a productive experience, though I have tremendous criticism for the way it values craft and the ultimate purposes of art. (It was overwhelmingly capitalistic, was hard to focus on the art in such a stock market environment, not to mention its being hosted in Chicago’s glorified food court (i.e. Navy Pier), &c.) But still, compelling.

Me Wondering Around Expo Chicago

Written by Zoey Wan

I attended Expo Chicago on Saturday because I wanted to hear the talk held between the SAIC professor Joseph Grigley and the well-known curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. So I’m going to talk about this conversation and the Expo in general.

The Conversation:

I don’t want to make a judgement of whether this event was executed well or not, since I’m not a professional critic and I feel like I just came for the talk. I’m definitely interested in the topics Joseph and Hans were mentioned in their conversation.  I’m not very familiar with both of them, but I know briefly about Hans for few years. I followed his Instagram and have seen his posts of the handwritten notes (The Art of Handwritingproject) for a while. It is lucky to hear that Hans expanded this conversation based on his project, and also introduced another archiving project of his own collections that professor Grigley is currently working on at SAIC.


They brought up this idea of the crisis of handwriting which I’m also aware of all the time. I remember they talked about how handwriting indicated evidences and features that reflect the actual personality of the individual that the digitized typing would never be able to copy (or not yet). The action, and performative essence in handwriting is a form of art that many people are ignoring. Hans defined things such as the fade away of handwriting as the the disappearing cultural phenomenons. The disappearance which caused by multiple facts like the development of technology, the colonialism, etc. There were also discussions about the method of archiving and the practices of the exhibitions. The predicament of both physical and digital archives, and what on earth is the condition of an exhibitions (what defines an exhibition, what space should an exhibition happen).

I find the topics and ideas Joseph and Hans were talking about were the very grounded matters that should always be brought up at the first place, but yet easily overlooked later on.

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The Expo:

I didn’t go through the entire conference hall, or didn’t pay that much careful attention. I did find few interesting works as always, and I did find the uneasy feelings of this environment, as always. I feel like I have this bizarre double-minded thinking process in my brain. On the one hand I feel distracted to be here because when I found a work I’m interested in, t seems like I’m not supposed to express my interest due to my poor financial condition. Money was the biggest word hanging around my mind, so on the other hand I really do wish I’m just a rich buyer who has all these market-fitted codes of manners that could at least gain me a little vanity.

Picture1.pngHowever, I enjoy observing the art market, and want to get in deeper. I’ve always been thinking the meaning of art and its relationship to us in person. When we were young, what our education taught us was “art” is a beautiful thing that touches everyone, and is for anyone. Then we grow up being more and more distant to art, or even being confused by art (especially the contemporary, which coexist with us at the moment). When I went through all these art market events, what I feel was the strong detachment between art education and the art economy. So I was wondering what makes art so special? And what makes art so secular?