Take it

Take it

Exhibition time: 3 June - 16 July, Tue. - Sun. 12 am - 6 pm

Exhibition Artist:ZHENG Guogu (GuangdongYangjiang), Erik van LIESHOUT (NL), Charlotte SCHLEIFFERT (Xiamen, Rotterdam), Xu Tan (Guangzhou), XU Zhen (Shanghai)

In this exhibition, UniversalStudios-beijing shows five artists from China and Europe. Zheng Guogu, winner of Chinese Contemporary Art Award 2006, shows photography, cloth and needlepoint works. Charlotte SCHLEIFFERT shows paper works. Erik van LIESHOUT’s video installation Fantasy Me is installed, and Xu Zhen shows his video and photography work Temporary Expansion. Last but not least: Xu Tan shows the first part of his new video work 100 key words. From different perspectives, all of these works express the artists’ intention to focus on contemporary aspects of social reality. Without a preoccupied critical attitude or judgment, without obvious historical, ethical and political correctness, they ‘take things as they come.’ As in a shopping mall, the world and its attributes are taken at face value. Commercial brands, daily objects, but also people’s daily speech, cultural differences and the (im)possibility of translating them. It is the artist who transforms these forms of reality into art by her or his imaginative impetus.

Erik van LIESHOUT’s video installation Fantasy Me, is inspired by the artist’s experience of living in China for 4 months. The work includes a big lantern and his video piece Tessa. Tessa is a shy Chinese girl with whom Erik passed four months in China. Fantasy Me focuses on the pedagogic dynamics inherent in relationships between people of different cultural backgrounds. As Erik teaches Tessa how to speak English and to be more bold and free, this shy girl teaches Erik Chinese gongfu. In this process of mutual study, the artist wishes that she can accept his life philosophy—how to be more strong and more powerful. But at last we see that the artist not only can’t let this girl self-awaken, but also totally overcomes her: She loves Erik. This unexpected result perhaps implies that age, region and cultural difference make it such that in a long-term relationship between two people, it is only possible for each to be bound by their own so-called self-delusions; it is rarely any other way.

In her work, Charlotte SCHLEIFFERT researches the transference of the male into the female role in our contemporary society by focusing on aspects of typical power-related social, political and cultural behavior or appearance. She finds her (male) on the street, on TV, in magazines and papers. This time in UniversalStudios-bejing, she shows the works with titles as: God has delivered us, I lost my Eurydice, Ohh my handsome Soldier! and Untitled (women with helmet). In her persistent style we see imagery of women with beards, armed like soldiers or more extremely as animals. The damaged female appearances suggest here the loss of voice and right. The text fragments which she put in the works indicate the (political) direction in which we can ‘read’ her work.

Xu Tan’s new work Searching for key words is a “field research” in progress as well as an echo of daily life. For this first part which he presents here in UniversalStudios-beijing, the artist collected the most frequently used words out of the vocabulary of people from different social groups. This work-in-progress consists of Chinese characters painted on the wall and parts of interviews recorded on video which show the way ‘just normal’ people use their voices, their intonation and their facial expression to convey the meaning of things they think are important in their lives. These are just regular, often used words. This does not mean that this work is telling ‘nice’ stories. In its use of daily vocabulary, it reflects the hard side of life as well. Language is used not only to show people engaged in daily communication, but also to make clear how mechanisms in our society control language itself. To do this kind of research on words is to research society itself, the freedoms it allows as well as the restrictions of daily speech and dialogue.

Reflection of daily living conditions is also central to Xu Zhen’s recent work Temporary Expansion. In this work, consisting of a video and seven series photography, the artist documents his actions, which entail the occupation other people’s private spaces. For this work, the artist made a rental contract to use parts of their apartments for a set period of time. In one case he asked the people to wash his clothes and hang them to dry in the front garden of their middle-class home; in another he put a skeleton in the window, or hung a traffic light in one of the rooms. From the artistic point of view this project shows the unlimited possibility of expanding ‘exhibition’ space into the direct, private spaces of people. From a more socio-political perspective, it pinpoints the conflicted and alienating power relations of private and collective property and the relevance of money in this context. It also tiptoes around the typical Chinese legal problems of the dwelling process, in so far as according to PRC law, individuals from outside can claim only the temporary right of residence by owning or renting property.

Zheng Guogu’s works are the response of the artist to commercial trends. His work Computer controlled by pig’s brain No. 59 belongs to his series Computer controlled by pig’s brain. This series is a refraction of how the media is overflowing and stimulating our everyday life. In these works he uses different elements of Hong Kong pop-culture magazines, which address people’s senses and their attraction to our consumerist branding culture. Put on the leatherette-canvas, the elements engender a corresponding ‘fancy’ effect. Sewing for another two thousands years is a textile work and part the needlepoint series, typical of his style in which traditional canvas-painting takes on the traits of embroidered carpet or wallpaper. The One hundred and fifty 10000 customers series was made as an homage to Hans van Dijk, the late Dutch curator who had a major influence in Chinese art after 1985, and a challenge to the contemporary art market to find 10,000 buyers for this series of works which, theoretically, consists of as many pieces. Each single work shows a daily news image composed out of a grid of hundreds of small photos of motorcycles. 150 different pieces together shows the massiveness of our volume-oriented, consumer culture. Zheng Guogu’s works aren’t judgments or counter-attacks, they are just enlargements of our reality.

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