Photo by Peishan Huang

“The epistemological void quickly turned to an existential one,” the projected head continues. “In the past month, I couldn’t shake the suspicion that we’re not real. Maybe we are simulated by higher beings, or maybe we’re just someone’s abandoned hallucination, an orphaned dream, or maybe we are inhabiting a fiction about the future….”

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The preciousness of Guo Yingguang’s practice lies in its continuous self-reflexivity. In retrospect of her professional career, the artist reveals that there is still a rupture within her between the “habits” from working in the press and her experiences of being an artist; it remains an ongoing project for her to make these experiences “completely becoming ‘me.’” Meanwhile, in her practice with a public nature, in the attempt to approach the relationship with other people that is either actively dominant or temporarily discursive and distant, Guo realizes, “I have always absorbed the energy of others—regardless if it comes in the form of help or criticism.”

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Much like in the UK and the US, the discussions of “community” revolved around local governance and social welfare, but these debates emerged largely in response to the decline of the planned economy system; and the definition of community is still based on location, rather than culture or identity. Although there was a range of relevant policies, community never actually play a significant role in state governance. Until the last five years especially after the pandemic, all the citizen now aware of which community they are located at. But to this day, what is “community” in China? 

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When decolonization refers to the privilege of exceptionalism within each individual, the post-WWII order, which once delivered stability, prosperity, and pluralism, faces a fundamental disintegration on all levels: political, economic, cultural, artistic, and religious, progressing to the “pre-World War III art” that is both highly destructive and constructive.

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In the days shrouded in opaque uncertainty, many of us were placed face-to-face with special measures, and had to deal with inutile efforts and unexplained loss. In the art industry, most people are put through the Sisyphean cycle that events and plans are postponed, rescheduled, or started all over again. It is nonetheless no news to us that women often obtain such gain as to be disproportionate to the effort they make, thinking of all the domestic errands and care services they are asked to take care of. From the menstrual cycle to childbirth, women live with “uncontrollable bodies” for a long time, with their life always “disrupted and started all over again.”

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The sceneries and characters that become figural by chance are self-revealed hints of the artist’s lodging in the void; they are conduits of joys and sorrows once real, places for Owen Fu’s geisttiere to dwell and play.

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“When the conversation goes astray, and the language stops functioning, you and I still share the same moment. In the final dialogue, people stopped using grand words and started sharing each other’s food. As exotic fruits and spices entered the gut, the bellies rounded, and the terrain of the body was quietly changing. “

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Recent art exhibitions in Shanghai––Wang Jianwei’s solo “Treading in Sludge” at MadeIn Gallery and Michael Wang’s “Lake Tai” at Prada Rong Zhai––both consider humanity’s bond with the Earth. The artists’ senses of place and planet are not mere chance encounters; although they differ in research methodologies and their rationales are manifested in different artistic practices and media, they both invite the audience to contemplate the ecological issues conveyed by these paintings, sculptures, and site-specific installations, and to destabilize the anthropocentric obsession with determining Earth’s fate.

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In their respective long-term practices, the artists Wang Tuo and Vajiko Chachkhiani both focus on the microscopic traumatic experiences of a specific subject that speaks cryptically for a particular history. In their artistic expression, reconstructed life experiences synergize with concern for the structural issues and the suspended matters of history that lie behind the rhetorical curtain, and which are intertwined with scenes of violence, mourning, and surreally tinted day-to-day life.

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Perhaps Trinh T. Minh-ha’s world of art is just like how the exhibition space is designed on the fifth floor of RAM, filled with poetic and theoretical phrases. The words printed on transparent plastics seemingly form a solid invisible wall that separates her art from life and physical experience, while the poeticism she instills in these words conjures an illusion of life.

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The loose, fluid “sand” and the meandering, shifting “paths” seem to conjure two divergent images that eventually converge. As the special formatting of the Chinese title suggests, this parallel relationship between “sand” and “paths” is made evident in Hu Xiaoyuan’s subtly distanced juxtaposition of the two elements. Through their latent tension, she searches for the traces of individual existence.

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In the article “Oral History: Geng Jianyi of the ‘85 New Wave of Art’: Seeing the World Differently Through Art,” published in Art World in 2006, the artist claimed that “incomplete materials combined with personal imagination equal history,” and the presentation of this exhibition reflects on this statement.

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Indeed, you might say that the curator has constructed this show as a (definitely European-style) theater through which to criticise the contemporary through the old, reality through imagination, the local through the alien. Because, ultimately, what’s going on right now is so hard to grasp in and of itself. In this formula, the title “I Imagine Angels” comes with a subtext: ‘I can’t believe the reality’.

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It wouldn’t matter if you had heard of the Gazimestan speech or its political significance. You might certainly recall the huge backdrop containing the insignia and dating the beginning and end of the battle of Kosovo, as well as this large-scale acrylic framed photograph suspended on the wall of the museum.

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The radical semiotics of the object contrived by the advent of modernity and technological optimism is fleeting and brittle. Cumulating a plenitude of displays that have endured the dispute between the world of aesthetics and commodity/material objects, the exhibition tugs the once quiet setting and elicits our perception of the ecology of “objects” hidden in art.

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That flawless world is dead, and has left no bones. Nothing but burnt stumps, drifting surfaces, formless fight, and the blue water of a tiny well, guarded by my silent Friend.

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LEAP S/S 2023 Sleek Surfaces


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