A British scientist once attempted to design a system of global weather forecasting based on a constant stream of data provided by 60,000-plus people. Nowadays, not only are we able to easily establish models for weather prediction, we can even imitate the unruly characteristics of Brownian motion to design other models for random movement. Such models have already been used extensively in the stock market. However, people far from trust them—while they appear able to bring many uncertain factors into a calculative range, many undisclosed external factors can easily interfere with or even destroy their reliability. Thus, the significance of such models is to a great extent defined by their ability jump out of the boundaries of known information.
If contemporary art production can be understood using the same methods, it could similarly be supposed that the more unexpected participants come into contact with an artwork, the more significant this multi-participatory tool brought about by the artist becomes—though this also depends on the extent to which the artist reflects on his or her awareness of certain issues.
This exhibition presents four construction models designed specially for Caochangdi: a Tower of Babel, an amphitheatre, an airport runway, and a building that has collided with the Earth’s crust; design plans for another work, not on display, are also featured. The exhibition also features the shirt worn by the artist while in Caochangdi, as well as his musings on three-dimensional placards: “Duchamp is not the ancestor of all people,” or on the wall next to a packet of antibiotic medicine, “Artist’s schizophrenia leads to internal heat. It’s reinforced by the artist with vision and material during the daytime. However, the questions begin to be raised at night.” Meanwhile, an iPad plays Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues. We also part of a piece from the Shi’s previous exhibition, and a caption which refers to the artist’s next endeavor: “my next solo exhibition / the landscapes of Wang Anshi / how landscapes can connect with politics / the solution is to paint landscapes in the way of science fiction.”
In the hope of upsetting commonly held notions of contemporary art, the artist chose to plant various things relating to himself and his work both inside and outside the exhibition. Most plainly visible are the multi-level participation and repeated sketching which characterize his creative process. Yet such pedantic details and this general sense of instability seemingly leaves the audience even more bewildered.
In accordance with this evaluation, I have proposed three rebuttals:
1.) “This exhibition will not liberate a visitor or participant who possesses a fiercely consuming mentality.”
2.) “Don’t look at each work independently, look instead at the connections between the works, in order to perceive the system they together construct.”
3.) “You’d like to determine the effect of an artwork? Art which serves as a tool of political dissemination can have its effect determined. That’s too reactionary.”
Any of the above attitudes towards the treatment visitors may hinder reflection on issues of awareness: when contemporary art acts as a participatory mechanism, it is difficult to progress beyond its ultimate limitations.
According to the logic of anti-consumerist models, these attitudes are limited, as they take participants and visitors to an exhibition and crudely divide them into either active participants or passive consumers, either those who require indeterminacy or those who strive to be clear-cut, precise, and forceful. At the same time, they lead the artist into a contradictory cul-de-sac: if the “space” which displays his or her works relies on the gallery and exhibition system in order to survive, then how is the artist ought to oppose consumerist perspectives? Would such a tangle not bring about long periods of stagnation and apathy, or periodic creative troughs? To build a creative system as the cognitive basis of this issue is just like creating a randomly moving model apparently able to cover all unruly activity, but which in fact appears more like an inverted pyramid of sand. It is, in other words, still very deep in existential crisis.