EX: 1/30/2012
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2013.04.26 Fri - 2013.06.16 Sun
Opening Exhibition
04/26/2013 16:00
798 Art District, No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu Chaoyang District, Beijing, China 100015
+86 10 5780 0200
Opening Hours
Tuesday - Sunday, 10am-7pm
Philip Tinari 田霏宇

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MAP Office: The Oven of Straw
[Press Release]

Press Release

In this installation in the UCCA Nave, Hong Kong-based artist/architect duo MAP OFFICE will focus on the historical, fundamental importance of wheat. “The Oven of Straw” is a space paradoxically made of the very stuff it is intended to consume—a portrayal of an agricultural product crucial to society and economy yet highly vulnerable to fire and drought. With an imposing façade resembling a bank and including a two-channel video installation that gathers references to wheat in periodic cinema pieces, the installation focuses on the tenuous relationship between capitalism and farmers, looking at wheat as the original Marxian commodity. Originally displayed in Ukraine, a country with an economy largely based in agriculture, the installation was conceived for the first Kiev Biennial in 2012.

MAP Office, “The Oven of Straw,” 2012, installation, 450 x 630 x 450 cm. Courtesy of Artist

In 2013, as the global food crisis only worsens, and there is increasing public awareness about the impact of the futures market on global food security, “The Oven of Straw” articulates the tension between capitalism, commodities, and basic human life. The video installation pits the labor of the farm worker against the speculative activity of the trader or banker. Films from various historical moments that employ farms, fields, and financial institutions as both subject and scene run side by side in a melancholic loop. There are clips from Soviet films that glorify collective labor; Dorothy from The Wizard of OZ makes an appearance in a nostalgic representation of the pastoral; while footage from the Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGEX) and Bloomberg News show the modern face of the agriculture industry. A voiceover track sets up an opposition between production and consumption from the outset, beginning:

Our values… our beliefs… our rituals… our heroes…
The farmer and the broker,
The cultivator and the investor,
The producer and the seller […]

MAP Office, “The Oven of Straw,” 2012, installation, 450 x 630 x 450 cm. Courtesy of the artist

MAP Office, “The Oven of Straw,” 2012, installation, 450 x 630 x 450 cm. Courtesy of the artist

Works by filmmakers including D. W. Griffith; Sergei Eisenstein; Luis Buñuel; Michelangelo Antonioni; Terence Malick; Akira Kurosawa; and China’s own Ping He are featured, a broad sweep through cinematic historythat covers feature films and propaganda films alike. One thing all the films have in common is a reliance on the affective qualities of various aspects of grain production. Wheat has often been used as a way to draw a sharp parallel between the productive systems of agriculture and the sterile accumulation of capital. “The Oven of Straw” takes cultural products from different periods,and refashions them in a critical engagement with contemporary issues.

MAP Office is a multidisciplinary platform devised by Laurent Gutierrez (b.1966, Casablanca, Morocco) and Valérie Portefaix (b. 1969, Saint-étienne, France). This duo of artists/architects has been based in Hong Kong since 1996, working on physical and imaginary territories using varied means of expression including drawing, photography, video, installations, performance, and literary and theoretical texts. Their entire project forms a critique of spatiotemporal anomalies, and documents how human beings subvert and appropriate space. Humor, games, and fiction are also part of their approach, in the form of small publications providing a further format for disseminating their work.

Map office, “Back Home with Baudelaire No 5,” 2005, C-print on hahnemuhle paper 100 x 200 cm

Map office, “City of Production,” 2008, HD video transferred to Blu-ray with sound 52:00

MAP Office projects have been exhibited in major international art, design and architecture events including: 7th Asia Pacific Triennial (2012); 1st Kiev Biennale (2012); 6th Curitiba Art Biennale (2011); 7th, 11th and 12th Venice Architecture Biennale (2000, 2008, 2010); Evento 1st Bordeaux Biennale (2009); 4th Tirana International Contemporary Art Biannual (2009); 2nd and 3rd Canary Island Biennale (2009, 2012); Prospect.1 New Orleans (2008); 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008); 10th Istanbul Biennial (2007); 52nd Venice Art Biennale (2007);15th Sydney Biennale (2006); 1st Paris Triennial (2006); 2nd Guangzhou Triennial (2005); 1st Singapore Biennale (2006); 2nd and 3rd Hong KongShenzhen Bi-City Biennale (2007, 2009); 1st Architectural Biennial Beijing (2004); 1st Rotterdam Architecture Biennale (2003). The pair took first place in the 2013 Sovereign Asian Art Prize for their photographic print, Back Home with Baudelaire, No. 5 (2005).

MAP Office publications include: HK LAB 2 (2005); HK LAB (2002); Mapping HK (2000); among many other publications about the “Made in China” phenomenon and other related issues. Their first film, City of Production was selected for the official competition at: 38th International Film Festival Rotterdam 2009, 33rd Cinéma du Réel Paris 2009, 1st Migrating Forms New York 2009, and presented at: 10th Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin/Madrid (2008).

Laurent Gutierrez is a co-founder of MAP Office. He is an Associate Professor at the School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University where he leads the Environment and Interior Design discipline and the Master of Design in Design Strategies as well as the Master of Design in Urban Environments Design. Valérie Portefaix is the principal and co-founder of MAP Office. After receiving a Bachelor in Fine Art, and a Master of Architecture degree, she earned a Ph.D. in Urbanism. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.