2015.03.07 Sat, by
Present · Being – The video works of Wang Gongxin over 20 years

From March 21 to May 24, 2015

Opening: March 20, 18:00

Venue: Shanghai OCAT, 30 Wen’an Road, Zhabei District, Shanghai.



Symposium and Press Conference: “Realism and Contemporaneity”

Guests: Huang Zhuan, Pi Li, Philip Tinari, Wang Ming’an, Wang Gongxin.

March 20, 14:30-17:00

OCAT Shanghai is proud to present Present · Being – The video works of Wang Gongxin over 20 years. By avoiding the usual dual structure of “curator & artist”, the artist was given full freedom to create a highly personal context for the interaction between the works and the exhibition space. This exhibition also represents a further step in OCAT Shanghai’s strong commitment into the field of exhibition and research of media art.

Born in Beijing in 1960, Wang Gongxin is one of the first and foremost Chinese artists to adopt media art as a primary creative medium. He was also the founder of “Loft”, the first media art center in China. His work has maintained a fierce inquisitive spirit and experimental awareness, with which the artist has instinctively chosen the most familiar and historically significant material to iterate the impact of causality (the “cause-effect” chain) inside contemporary societies and in the lives of people. Trained in oil painting, Wang Gongxin has over the years maintained a sensibility and a nostalgic longing for the canvas, as well as the emotional drive to shift between painting and media, meanwhile revealing an utmost control in the use of both.

Present · Being will include some of Wang Gongxin’s most recent works as well as archival materials – three series of multi-channel video installations and one series of documentary photographs – to present an overview of the artist’s past and current practice. The photographic series The Sky of Brooklyn documents the creative process, the state of completion as well as the exhibition site of the homonymous video work from 1995 – celebrating this year its twentieth anniversary – and marks Wang Gongxin’s transition from painting to video art; Whose Studio (2014) appropriates the scene and structural elements of the well-known The Painter’s Studio by the French realist painter Courbet, using multi-channel video projection to construct a scene similar to artist’s studio, transforming the studio into a contemporary setting and “displacing” it into the exhibition space; The Story of Lei Feng (2014) is a photographic work, and an attempt to stir, in the mind of the audience, an immediate association with the infamous image Learning From Lei Feng, deeply rooted in the national imagery and in nearly every Chinese household: here the classic representation of Lei Feng reading a book is appropriated by figures of various race, age and identity… as the work is played, the same figures are synced, for a certain given duration, with the original image to express feelings of joy, anger, sadness and happiness; Blood Stained Auction (2014) gradually reveals the figures and scene inside Wang Shikuo’s Blood Stained Shirt, a painting representative of the “revolutionary realism”, an artistic current of the Fifties. Wang Gongxin reassembles the compositional elements and primary figures of Blood Stained Shirt and combines them with scenes from a contemporary art auction: the video installation made of five-screen of large dimension constructs a real space that is overlapping and confused, in order to materialize an enlivened vision.

Wang Gongxin’s works thoroughly expose the depth and tension implied in the language of media. The use he made of the potential of this language allows him to permeate his inquiries with reality, and present us the ruptures between memories and illusions, reality and perception, existence and nothingness, free vision and hindrances. By adopting three significant works in the history of art – and in the history of revolution as well as revolutionary art – as the point of entry, he deconstructs “images”, “icons” and “phenomena” within the very progression of history. In other words, the temporal logic between the new work and the “appropriated” images is not only a matter of “cause and effect”, but in Wang’s unique perspective a critical distance from the “originals” is also produced: by virtue of the same mechanism of deconstruction and reconstruction of categories such as traditional and modern, East and West, painting and video, he has established his own style

The exhibition Present · Being allows the viewer to discover Wang Gongxin’s creative clues over the last two decades, and appreciate his new works through an insightful revisiting of history (the history of images and the artist’s own history).

We would like to thank Sony China for its support in providing the technical equipment.

Artist’s Statement:

When, in the mid 1990s, I made my first video installation The Sky of Brooklyn – a well dug in my house with a screen in it, broadcasting the Brooklyn sky – I officially tied my destiny to the so-called “video art”. Twenty years flashed by, but experimenting with media has always been the primary component of my artistic practice. From my initial curiosity for a new medium and my infatuation with technology, to the inquiry in it and the control established over it, up to now, this language has become my tool to communicate with my friends and the public. It brought uncertainty, contemplation and emotion in my life, yet I became increasingly reliant on it! I am not sure whether I will grow sick of it in the next twenty years… Alas! Will I perhaps age with it?

The three new multi-channel video installations presented in this exhibition represent introspective analysis, reviews and meditations about my creative practice over the last two decades. Beside encompassing my experimental approach and my re-thinking of notions such as “reality” and “representation”, they appropriate three artworks that have been deeply embedded in my visual learning: Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio; the iconic image from the Cultural Revolution “Learning From Lei Feng”, and the Blood Stained Shirt by the Chinese “revolutionary realist” painter Wang Shikuo. The purpose of appropriation is to discover the inbuilt components of my memory: past scenarios impressed on my heart, traces of familiar patterns, and the overlapping of these “objects” in my mind. These works not only detect the present condition of real landscapes through virtual images and haunting illusions, but at the same time, within a context based on the synchronized reproduction of moving images in space and time, they explore the possibility for a vivid reproduction of “reality” and “presence”.

In the last twenty years, I was happy to share my fascination with video art – and my perseverance in the research of this medium – with old and new friends, with whom I have come a long way, through joy and hardship. I would like to thank them for assisting me in the making of this exhibition. A special thanks goes to OCAT Shanghai for its support, the unconditional trust in my work, and for giving me this great opportunity. I would also like to thank Sony China for providing technical support to this exhibition.

Wang Gongxin

Jan. 2015