Author Archives: kewang0422

Review: Amar Kanwar, The Lighting Testimonies

Amar Kanwar’s video installation The Lighting Testimonies presenting at AIC currently could easily give you an unexpected thrilling experience. Within a small dark room, 8 projections were installed respectively on four sides of the wall, each showing a different documentary story of a woman retelling and re-counting her traumatized memories of sexual violence. A highly involvement space was the first impression this work left on me. However, if you expect a lively theater experience from it, you might be disappointed by the following 30 minutes you continue to spend here.

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Cameras were presumably to ensure a sense of reality, which equally considered being the premise of film and photography art. How to deal with such sense of reality becomes many artists’ major concern. At first glimpse, Kenwar’s work looks like a comprehensive narrated documentary (this still remains part of the artist’s intension for creating this piece), however, the more you immerse into these memories of others, the better you see what you are generating and projecting from this interpreted political and historical narration you are perceiving.

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To my understanding, once imagination representing private memories and experiences had been exhibited through a sharable medium, in the meanwhile connotes something significantly to its viewers. Works that clearly articulate the relation between themselves and the reality through a personal stance are not only more open to emotional projection from the audience, but also more likely to provoke fruitful and productive criticism and theorization. Nevertheless, the potential misgiving would then fall into the uncertainty of proper separation between the content/subject conveyed through the screen and its significance to the viewer as an individual, which also defines the fundamental value of the work.

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In this dimension, the artist did a good job in mediating the individual and collective experience by connecting the subject and the viewer in a much more complicate way. The incapability of seeing the whole picture, the impulse of communicating, the inevitability of neglecting, and the limitation of “justice” are all showcased and addressed through these still cameras and projections, poetic and disturbingly.

If you’d like to go and check this piece out by yourself, my tips for you as an audience would be give more patience to Mr. Kenwar, slow down your usual pace for grasping videos, pay some attention to what these women were trying to tell, and be ready to encounter with yourself through it.

 

Strauss Bourque-LaFrance and Sean Raspet at the Rachel Uffner Gallery

Encountered with Rachel Uffner Gallery while walking around lower east side in NY city during spring break. The new exhibition installed in the gallery’s new upstairs space impressed us.

 

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The relationship between material and abstraction has been a longstanding concern in the work of Sean Raspet, particularly as it relates to what he calls “revisable materiality” – i.e. a paradigm of thought prevalent today wherein material substances are increasingly imagined as malleable with qualities that are fully adjustable and severable. These are the surfactants, emulsifiers, binders of otherwise incompatible ingredients, and flow modifiers that absorb, disperse or work at the interface between active ingredients and different phases of matter. In Phantom Ringtone (2013) propylene glycol, one such ingredient, is used as a medium for a fragrance formulation that is intended to capture the common experience (known as “phantom ringing”) of feeling that one’s cell phone is ringing or vibrating when it is not. The abstract capacity of the cell phone as a communicative medium is distilled into a hallucinatory anticipation that then becomes the basis for a further abstraction into a fragrance formulation that “captures” the essence of this experience. The resulting smell is fleeting and non-specific; vaguely familiar and abstract; almost not there and constantly reoccurring.

 

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In his installations, Strauss Bourque-LaFrance fuses everyday materials into beguiling formal compositions and precarious arrangements that playfully subvert mundane interiors and position domesticity as a mise-en-scene for role-play and disjointed narrative. With these new “vacation paintings,” Bourque-LaFrance addresses his all consuming detachment from traditional painting and its relationship to digital screens and tablets. He manipulates readymade mesh screens and spray paints the foreground and background to create immediate, textured works that hover on the edge between abstraction and representation. Hanging loosely in beguilingly slick, multi-colored Plexiglas boxes they reference both the tenderness of textiles and domestic towel racks with the authoritative formality of historical vitrines

 

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We Were Born Old – On Chinese Contemporary Art

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Maybe some of you have already heard or even visited the Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China (http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2013/ink-art) at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  Recently, a symposium (Feb 23rd) on the same topic was held at the MET, which attracted a lot of attentions in Mainland China. Let’s just hold on for a moment on the reception of “Western” critics, but to see how numerous Chinese critics have been writing a gobs out of it.

I just read something written from a Mainland-China based beloved contemporary critic Pi Li(皮力), who holds a relatively negative assessment on it. On one hand, he thinks that a Chinese contemporary exhibition on the subject of ink is already not a smart decision, let alone it is taken place at the MET. The “nationalism group” would consider that as not traditional enough, but the avant-guard people won’t take that seriously as contemporary art either. So it seems to be placed in an embarrassed position in between. On the other hand, he also expressed his disappointment on the general reception of MET’s choice of “Ink” as a representation of the Chineseness, which means it is so welcomed in the West! (Chineseness lol)

Earlier in 2008, after the essay Mao Crazy (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/mao-crazy) written by Jed Perl published on New Republic, it caused a splash among the art scene in Mainland China. Interestingly, another essay titled Western Authorities Derided Chinese contemporary Art As Too Evil (which is a newly distorted translation of Mao Crazy) has been attracting a lot of attentions on the Internet recently. Critic Pi Li commented on that saying the so-called  “Western authorities” has become an imaginary enemy but at the same time a beautiful dream lover to the Chinese contemporary art world.

He claimed, if the mass art audiences in China are no longer immune to anything from the “Western Authorities”, the diffidence of Chinese contemporary art is again revealed underneath its hot and glamorous appearance. In the meanwhile, what are the “Western Authorities”? And why does it matter a ton thus become many people’s concerns.

Pi Li quoted this saying to describe his upsets: “We were born old, will never have a chance to grow up until we die.” Even though I totally understand his concern, but I am not as worried as he does. After all, IMHO, who cares about authorities and “Chineseness”, in the West?