Gabriel Lester: EVERYDAY LIFE
Curated by Yao Mengxi
Proposed by Gabriel Lester
In 2011 I moved to Shanghai because my girlfriend was contracted to set up the Asia office for Rotterdam based architects MVRDV. At first I did not speak a word of Chinese, which forced me to energetically gesture, signal, point, wave and indicate. Fortunately, soon after we had settled in the Jing-An district, I met curator Yao Mengxi in a placed called Taopu; an old factory complex about a forty minutes taxi drive outside of Shanghai city center. Taopu had developed into an alternative to the M50, a more centrally located art and gallery district. In Taopu artist such as Xu Zhen (MadeIn Company), Yang Zhenzhong and Liu Jianhua had studio’s next to the second space of the pioneering Shanghart Gallery. For about two years Yao Mengxi assisted me with mostly artistic research and artwork production, but also in finding my way on the Chinese internet, guiding me to printers, factories and otherwise hidden places and events.
When Mister Motely invited me to compose an online exhibition, it occurred to me that it would be an excellent opportunity to propose Yao Mengxi to curate an online exhibition on young and upcoming performance art in China. To me this country administers what seems a very makeshift society of energies, ideas and people. From its urban planning, provisional habitat annexes and many private real-estate initiatives, to Tai-Chi exercises in parks, synchronized dancers on public squares, board games on sidewalks and a seemingly free flowing, uncontrolled traffic. There is much to be said about contemporary China, of how it is simultaneously re-discovering, re-divining re-imagining its identity, and how it is doing so through trial and error. There is something very fascinating in how such dynamics find their way into art and performance in particular, as it is the quintessential art-form to stage the direct and physical relation, resistance and intimacy of people and their environment.
-Gabriel Lester 2016.2.14
Much of the known Chinese contemporary art starts with imported and transplanted ideas from the West. These forms and concepts gradually transform into something local to become what is typically, contemporary Chinese. These days the aesthetics of artworks enjoy the most attention, while market-oriented artworks are taken more serious then the non-marketable experiment. Simultaneously and without necessary contradiction, artist are still questing the true purpose of art. In doing so, young artists employ different ways and methods to uncover and recover the hidden ordinaries of life. Perhaps like that some daily logic is altered, even without, or before the artists becomes aware of the new possibilities is proposes. These works are thus not created to display or demonstrate spectacle, but to prepare and make way for new views, positions and logics that are most urgent.
Artists such as Dong Pengfei, Shi Yijie, Tang Chao, Wang Chao and Yu Shuhang are changing the logic of contemporary art is China, as they dig into the game of existing power structures, hoping to catch the attention of fellow artists and people in general.
Wei Yuan and Zhang Yisheng are both artists who stand up against the rigid rules of society and question its validity.
Li Ming, Wang Fangyi and Yu Guo are zooming in on the power that be and aim to surprise the audience with their works and unexpected points of view.
Artist Ge Yulu, Cai Kai and Wang Haichuan aim to increase awareness of their public by reflecting and feeding back ideas that come from the local community.
Huang Songhao, Liu Weiwei and Zhu Jianlin are creating troubles in the cracks of contemporary art in order to prepare new forms of art.
-Yao Mengxi 2014.2.14
Yao Mengxi (1984) is a curator and writer based in Shanghai. Recently curated the exhibitions include: "All new-formed ones become obsolete before they can solidify" (2013) and "The energy is stolen" (2013). Yao writes for the ARTFORUM Website (China) and ARTCO Magazine (Taiwan) since many years.
[Click here for a video to watch with image nr. 16.]