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2016.08.24 Wed, by Translated by: Huang Banyi
Beijing late Summer Hit-list: Past and Present

“Time Test: International Video Art Research Exhibition”

CAFA Art Museum (8 Hua Jia Di South Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing), until August 28, 2016

With a selection of classic Chinese and Western video art works, this exhibition is clearly some kind of “Video Art 101” on the development of the medium. Introducing “Button Happening” (1965) by Nam June Paik (“the father of video art”), and Pop Art master Andy Warhol’s “Outer and Inner Space” (1966) as a prologue to the show, the first section “Moving Time: Video Art at 50, 1965–2015” showcases artists’ exploration of the notion of video and its technologies. The second section “Screen Test: Chinese Video Art since the 1980s” takes “WATER — Standard Version from the Dictionary Ci Hai”, a 1993 work by Zhang Peili, as a point of departure, demonstrating the process through which the medium of video art took root in China. Highlights include “Special Unit: Hong King Video Art”, organized by Hong Kong non-profit Videotage, where the works shown are distinguished not only by their Cantonese pronunciation but also by elements distinctive (albeit rather superficially) to Hong Kong, such as the Bank of China Tower and the 2002 crime thriller Infernal Affairs. In addition to the variety of content, the exhibition format also provides a comfortable viewing experience. The exhibition texts, which include the interpretations of artists or curators, allow even an uninitiated viewer to grasp the intention behind each work; the combination of room partitions and appropriate placement also reduced noise interference between the works to a minimum. The viewer could either sit back on a cozy couch to enjoy a home-theater screening experience, or put on headphones so as to be fully immersed in the show.

“Time Test: International Video Art Research Exhibition”, exhibition view at CAFA Art Museum

“Time Test: International Video Art Research Exhibition”, exhibition view at CAFA Art Museum

“Rauschenberg in China”

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (798 Art District, No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing), until August 21, 2016

In October 1985, Robert Rauschenberg held a three-week long exhibition at the National Art Museum of China, attracting over three hundred thousand visitors. For a China then still under the sway of Modernism, Rauschenberg’s use of ready-made objects as well as his breakthrough in shattering the boundary between painting and sculpture challenged Chinese audiences’ perception of art, and greatly influenced Chinese artists who were seeking to break away from the traditions of Soviet Realism in search of fresh means of expression. After 31 years, UCCA’s mounting of “Rauschenberg in China” is unquestionably a show that brings back memories. In order to recreate the spectacle and impact of the original exhibition, the media and a number of institutions also launched a series of talks featuring various celebrities. “The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece” (1981-98), the magnum opus of the show, is comprised of 190 parts spanning approximately 305 meters. Completed over a period of 17 years, this installation of paintings includes major motifs found throughout Rauschenberg’s oeuvre, such as “White Paintings”, “Combines”, as well as “Cardboards” and “Gluts”. Also part of the exhibition is “Study for Chinese Summerhall”, made by the artist during his stay in China in 1980.

“Rauschenberg in China”, exhibition view at UCCA

“Rauschenberg in China”, exhibition view at UCCA

“Andy Warhol: Contact”

M WOODS (798 Art District, No. 2 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing), until January 17, 2017

“Andy Warhol: Contact” may not be as comprehensive and well-researched as the 2013 traveling exhibition “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal” (Beijing and Shanghai) in terms of the quantity and temporal range of the works. It is, however, the most “Warhol-esque” show yet seen in China. Paying homage to Andy Warhol’s infamous studio The Silver Factory, M WOODS hosted on the show’s opening night a musical bash dubbed “Welcome to the Factory”. It was “Warhol-esque” not so much in that the party—accompanied by experimental electronic beats and silver plastic sheets—to a degree recovered the atmosphere of the artist’s studio, but rather because the assembled celebrities, socialites, and artists reccalled the celebrity-seeking Warhol, the doyen of nightlife. Instead of focusing on the silk-screen works that the artist is mainly known for, “Contact” presents Warhol’s “Screen Tests”, polaroid film portraits, the installation “Silver Clouds”, as well as his experimental film Kiss made in 1963.

“Andy Warhol: Contact”, exhibition view at M WOODS

“Andy Warhol: Contact”, exhibition view at M WOODS

Ma Qiusha “Wonderland”

Beijing Commune (798 Art Zone, No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing), until August 6, 2016

“Wo De Lan”, the Chinese rendering of “wonderland”, also happens to have been the name of the miserable flop of an amusement park that aimed to be the “World’s Biggest” in the 1990s, the incomplete ruins of which still stand 20 miles outside Beijing after construction was abandoned in 1998. Featured in the show is an impressive 3-channel video entitled “Avatar”. Sporting sunglasses and black bikinis, three attractive and shapely girls fiddle with a Bible and Buddhist beads—elements seemingly incompatible with their babelike image As the girls get up to leave and the lens zooms out, the charming scenery is interrupted by the sudden rumble of an automobile engine. Realizing that the lovely beach was nothing but a pile of sand on the back of a truck, we are transported out of a deceptive illusion and back into reality.

 “Wonderland”, exhibition view at Beijing Commune

“Wonderland”, exhibition view at Beijing Commune

Yang Yuanyuan, “At the Place of Crossed Sights (Part one)”

C-Space (Red No.1-F, Caochangdi, Chaoyang District, Beijing), until August 14, 2016

Beginning with a severely under-developed photograph in which the year and location of production have been rendered irretrievable, Yang Yuanyuan sketches barely discernible contours, and looks for past images in order to generate new meanings for a photo that has lost its original documentary function. Often by adapting a historical research method, Yang centers her work in this exhibition around several photographers who lived and worked in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, exploring the possibilities of visual storytelling. Whether she is examining old photographs developed from film or newly-made digital prints, reading fictional texts or those based on historical facts, the result is an effective interweaving of fantasy and reality, past and present.

“At the Place of Crossed Sights (Part one)”, exhibition view at C-Space