The Crevices beneath the Surface
In an era where a vast world can effortlessly be presented, replicated, and shared across screens of varying hues, and new technologies continue to permeate daily life and influential events, the notion of “sleekness” is shaping how we view and influence life’s politics in an ostensibly diverse but potentially homogenized manner on an unprecedented scale and depth. Post-pandemic, cross-border collaborations both within and outside the digital realm, along with large-scale global art events, are driven by retaliatory ambitions and subtle apocalyptic attitudes, while social media relentlessly reinforces the message that “art is inescapable.”
LEAP’s Spring/Summer 2023 edition, titled “Sleek Surfaces,” delves into the notion of smooth aesthetics, which have become increasingly dominant due to the resurgence of social media during the pandemic era. Philosopher Byung-chul Han identifies these smooth aesthetics as symptomls of a performance-oriented society and a defining label of our time, marked by both escalating division and the encapsulation of information. Fragmented time, shortened attention spans, and a dearth of genuine curiosity are the forces propelling the evolution of smooth aesthetics.
Within this issue, LEAP meticulously explores the prevailing trends of smoothness and sleekness as they materialize in contemporary art, examining the homogenized prosperity of the art market, the unconscious impact of smooth aesthetics within and beyond the art industry, the effects of accelerated consumption and involution on urban life, as well as theseemingly unconsumable art. This exploration includes uncovering the turbulent undercurrents beneath the seemingly smooth surface, born from the artists’ “regressive labor” or intentional destruction. To truly awaken from the allure of smoothness, we must scrutinize our past experiences with great care, akin to inspecting a snake’s skin, to unveil the raw seams and somber shadows concealed within the seemingly perfect images and enchanting interpretations. By doing so, we can cultivate a more diverse and robust form of thinking and language.
Meanwhile, this issue features the creative contributions of six artists and collectives, offering an in-depth exploration of the intricacies and dissatisfactions surrounding smoothness within contemporary art. Through projects specifically designed for the magazine’s pages, they bring a unique perspective to this intriguing topic. In the “Research” section, readers will encounter curators and researchers exploring and evaluating the explicit and implicit elements of “smoothness” from varied experiences and perspectives.
While occasional indulgence in the ease of “lying flat” amidst the continuous deluge of information and thoughts is understandable, we must remember that beauty might not have much to do with authenticity. Instead, it is amidst the rugged and challenging terrain that we might find a unique escape from the world of polished exteriors.
Into the Lumpy World | Gary Zhexi Zhang
Appropriately Crap | Yang Wang of zzyw
Smooth Appearances: Contemporary Painting and Other Art as “Double Agent” | Ren Yue
Slime in Loops | Chloe Jiamin Cao
In Defense of Artistic Research: A Situated Response to “Information Overload: Claire Bishop on the Superabundance of Research-based Art” | Nikita Yingqian Cai
Postcolonial Sargasso Sea Observing Sharjah Biennial 15 | Asea Zhanglun Dai
Xeno-temporality in us: in Synthetic Ecology We are Becoming Strange Strangers | Wang Yanran
On mediation: The Art of Decision-Making Techniques | Li Suchao
Traces of Lu Pingyuan: in the Messages of the Whole World | Nie Xiaoyi
Trolley and Party: Who is Jaffa Lam? | Zhang Ting
Learning to do Work: Aesthetics and Politics in Li Liao’s Recent Work | Yu Yongze
However Many Times We Ran the Model the Results were Pretty Much the Same | Liam Gillick and Hito Steyerl
Image Swarm | Xia Cheng’an
To Touch the Shadows | Liu Shuwei
Home after Melting | Jiechen Zhang
Recast | Peishan Huang
(en)meshed poetry | David Douard