Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Studio Review

Posted in Reviews by danwang on March 21, 2010

A Studio visit to Gransden Avenue London Fields, 9th March 2010

 I succeed in arranging my second studio visit to artist Anna Boggon, whom I met by chance last year. I felt that I had been preparing so long for this meeting, searching for a reason for the next studio visit and further research of this artist’s practices. The purpose of the visit did not come out until after five months’ trial and effort.

 After sitting down in a comfortable couch, Anna opened the file of my proposal from her computer and discussed the coming Metro station project that we were going to collaborate on in Shanghai. The conversation traced back to her Artist Residency in China (2006), where she had a project named The Taxi Driver: Anna took several taxis and asked drivers to take her to some places, where the different places were a response to the artist’s questions from their own perspectives, and these questions were summarized as the description of the city such as sadness, terror, ugliness, beauty through the project. Due to the different language translations, interpretations and culture differences, each destination was surprising and unpredictable, and sometimes Anna was confused by the taxi drivers’ answers. What shocked her most was an answer to the questions of ‘ugliness’, where a driver brought her to the venue of Shanghai Expo. That also partly implied the local people’s comments to the construction of Expo: It was a dusty, massive and mechanical building site. 

 Experiencing the high-speed plan of the city, Anna had an interesting metaphor that the construction of shanghai was just like the growing bamboo. It was hard to predicate which building would be highest in the city, and which one would be destroyed in ten years’ time?” Anna and I were both amazed by the enormous expansion of the city, the speed of urban construction and the relative capacity of the city. Talking about the Metro Station project, we agreed that the Expo was a theatre of various social activities, acting through a number of specific global institutions and associations. The exploration of this project was to re-examine the Expo phenomena of Shanghai and analyze the affect on people’s lives, and its aim was to express the moments from the artists’ perspectives in every single day during Expo.

 Anna suggested a website named Art on the Underground, which could be a reference for my project, and she was also involved in one of these projects: The waiting room. Participating with art students, the project was divided into two exhibitions at Dagenham Heathway and Upney Underground stations, and it aimed to tract the memory of past journeys, and engage people to raise awareness of their location station. It started at the waiting room of the station, works as images or installations were displayed on the windows, platforms and walkways. These projects on the underground could be precedents of my project with Anna and suggested the way forward for the curatorial practices and art discourses.  

 Focusing on this project, Anna’s initial artistic approach was to start with the billboards and commercial advertisements in the public spaces, where these images turned to manifest the presence of the city and appeared as urban elements to present the trends of pop culture, consumption and political propaganda. We believed that further discussions of appropriate contexts and methods were fundamental and should be continued. That is the main focus of our third topic for the next studio visit that we both look forward to.


How and under what conditions can new media art present memory?

Posted in Reviews by danwang on March 14, 2010

How and under what conditions can new media art present memory?

The analysis of Hu Jieming’ art practices

A Report of Fifth Workshop- Forgery – memory – realism

There were a series of shows named Things from the gallery warehouse in 2009, and they exhibited several large –scaled installations from ShanghART’s collection. The aim of the shows were to present Chinese established artists’ early works and reveal a period of Shanghai Contemporary art history. The exhibitions can also help critics and curators to compare artists’ present coherent works. As can be seen in the second exhibition (Dec 19, 2009 – Mar 10, 2010), one piece of new media art work from Hu Jieming named The Fiction between 1999-2000 (1999) was displayed in ShanghArt H space. Artist Hu can be considered as one of the pioneering artists in Chinese new media art


The Fiction between 1999-2000 was firstly exhibited in San Franciso MoMa in 2000. As photographing a moving object, artists shall make a decision either shooting a single moment or shutter open through the whole movement (Huberman, 2005, 32). Hu’s work chose the second gesture: the art installation was constructed by the large quantities of information from the television channels and the websites, and the progress of the recording information lasted 24 hours from midnight of 31s December t 1999 to1st January 2000. The information was collected and transformed into films, which recalled a period of memory that new media was increasingly proliferated at the beginning of 21st century and fully engaged with people’s daily life. The work also revealed the prevalent saying: the distance of the world has been reduced by information our contemporary society (

Looking at this art work again in 2010, the viewers’ senses of the images have been transformed into memories and changed into different contexts. That reflected a simple possible case in Huberman’s analysis. In his book Image not available stated that, “ images’ character of obscured immediacy passes into background ……as a narrative sequence appears no longer the performance of crystal but the chronology of a story (Huberman, 2005, 13).” The familiar scenes from these images represented the fragments of viewers’ memory, which they were memory of the past and the contrast of present sensation (Ricoeur, 2004, 15). In fact, these images have not been shown on the televisions since 10 years ago and they only existed in people’s memory partially and unreliably. The artist collected the images of past in order to show that new media technology had occupied people’s life and influenced the way of receiving information at the end of 20th century. The work implied a problem that the information is so powerful that influences our navigation in the world. His work also questioned if we would choose to do independently or lose ourselves when we are controlled by the information.

Time is also considered as a significant element in this work. It is true that memory depends on time having been passed by, and people do not have the perception of time (Ricoeur, 2004, 16). The Fiction between 1999-2000 recorded available information through changing website and television channels at a specific moment, which it was a time ‘passage’ between 20th century to 21st century. These vivid images represented a period of the informative moment, and viewers can perceive that moment even they do not have experienced it.

This new media art work also can distinct two forms of memory like in Bergson’s influential book, Matter and Memory (1896). According to his theory, memory can be divided into habit memory and the memory of a particular reading (Ricoeur, 2004, 25). Firstly, the images of the art installation were captured from what people saw, exactly like assembling the information from their habit of watching TV or searching the Internet (habit memory). These vivid images were collected from people’s habit memory, and they were then reinstalled as a mix- media sculpture in a gallery-space (transformed into the memory of particular reading, just like a event) When viewers saw the work, the images turned to be a readable presentation, but as time passed, the viewers ‘memory of the images were not the same compared to the actual work; they became obscure and were unrelated to their habit memory. Consequently, the work illustrated the transformation of two forms of memory by the particular images that the artist had selected.

The new media art was directly related to the development of the technology itself. Computer-based interactive art provides a platform for viewers to participate in visualizing time. The relationship between time and memory can be interrupted into still and moving images and captured into successful movements. Towards late 20th century, these art actions named Multimedia art reflected advanced technologies in film and video (Rush, 1986, 9). This also was proved in the history of Chinese New Media Art. The term computer technology came to China in late 90s and was adopted by artist practices. In 1996, Hu bought his first computer and started to explore new media technology such as photography, video works, and digital interactive technology.

As a core new media artist, Hu’s works always attempt to present visualizing time and interact with the audiences. These artistic approaches have the advantage of new media’s features: it is dynamic and interactive. This can be directly related to Ranciere’s theory, who cited that:“ a form of material presentation that is adequate to its idea(Ranciere, 2007, 110).” The material form is secondary to ideas of the art works, and multimedia art tends to develop as a new platform to inclusiveness of new technology and ideas(Rush,1999,84). Rooted in this concept, Hu’s early digital collages the Raft of the Medusa (2002) was referenced to the historical painting the Raft of Medusa from Théodore Géricault in 1891, which was about a poetic memory of 15 survivors after a fatal shipwreck. Using similar pictorial composition of the painting, Hu described another narrative of society in sinking collapse by the digital synthesis technology. This work consisted of a reference of the past, today’s consumerism and youth gestures in self- indulgent hedonism   


Using a wide array of mix-media methodologies, sound instruments were involved into his works and its purpose was to make his ideas visible. This was explained by Ranciere in What Representation Means: “Speech makes visible. refers, summons the absent reveals the hidden ( Ranciere,2007, 113). Hu’ solo show Reverberation of the City (2005) can be an example of a dialogue of vision and sound;as a dependency of the visible on sound. The exhibition consisted of four pieces of video installations: Up and Up (2004), Something in the Water (2004), It is still there (2003), and From Architectural Immanence (2002). The sound and the explanations of urbanism were essential elements in all of these video installations. In fact, the sound did not really make artist’s ideas visible, but it evoked and affected audiences’ imagination to their response to the art work.

Over the last ten years, Hu’s artistic practices always focus on addressing the economic growth and consumers’ waste, and his works analyze the relationship between art and consumer culture, between daily life commodities and commercial advertisements. Hu has rich experiences of manipulating time, which makes his ideas embody an adjusted relationship between past and present. This is indeed what characterizes the work Dozens of days and Dozens of years (2007).The artist did not consider time as abstraction, but concrete as substance.

The work consisted of six pieces of furniture and they were installed in the glass cabinets. Due to the special chemical reagents and UV lights, a new piece of furniture was eroded day by day and gradually changed its internal structure and shape. This process was recorded during two months and showed as pictures to the audiences every day, aiming to reflect the destruction of these works. There was also an electric timer installed beside each work, counting the days after each twenty four hours. During two months ‘exhibition, the audiences could see the legible changes of the works, which had been transformed from daily objects to a pure place of memory in a concrete form. Although this multi-media installation seemed to be fictional entities, Hu tended to reveal a fact under the recognizable memory. One the one hand, it was to criticize how fast an invented commodity becomes out of date and is eliminated from the market. On the other hand, the contrast between new pieces of furniture and instant changes revealed a phenomenon: Chinese contemporary economy was dramatically increased to make previous commodity gradually disappear


New media art can be considered as a new genre of contemporary art, and it has been widely accepted in museums and among critics. Currently it tends to be frequently applied into art works rather than other forms of art. The exploration of time is one of new media artists’ central concepts. If time can be manipulated in multiple ways within various media, artists can present immediate experience of time just passed in order to have a quick response that has been significantly influenced by society. In recent Hu Jieming’work The World is Under Construction (2009), he questioned whether our planet was prepared for man’s constant construction and doubted the capacity of earth. He believed that time would affect people’s daily life and society, and the role of artists was to reveal the time engagement with both history and the present ( New media art with the advanced technologies can recombine and adjust the relationship between the memory and reality.





Zhu,H. (2009). Things from the Gallery Warehouse (accessed on 08/03/10).

Huberman, G,D. (2005), “ History of Art, Practice” in Images not available. Pennsylvania: The university State University Press.pp13.

Jacques Ranciere, Are Some things Unrepresentable in ‘The Future of the Image’ (London: Verso 2007), pp109-118.

Ricoeur, P.(2004) “Memory and Imagination"in Memory, History,Forgetting.Chicago: Chicago University Press.pp5-55.

Rush, M. (1999). “ Introduction” in New Media Art in Late 20th-century Art. UK: Thames&Hudson LTD. pp84.

Shangart Gallery. (2004), Hu JieMing (Accessed 10/03/10).

Shanghai Stock Information. (2007), Hu Jieming’s sole show Dozens of days and Dozens of years. 10/03/10).

Formulating a new structure for the corporate-funded gallery in China

Posted in Reviews by danwang on March 9, 2010

Formulating a new structure for the corporate-funded gallery in China

-A Report of the Fourth Workshop: Laughter-Contamination-Mediation

 The way of seeing art always reaches a point where we see the space first, and images from art viewers’ memories always come to the white ideal space of the gallery. Galleries or museums frequently become the medium to manifest and articulate artistic ideas. The Gallery as a Gesture statues that, “The gallery’s implicit content can be forced to declare itself through gestures that use it whole. That content leads in two directions: it comments on the “art” within to which it is contextual, it comments on the wider context- city, money, business-that contains it.” (Doherty, 1999, 87) The content can be one of the key coordinates in art institutions, which can be classified into different types of galleries and museums. Seth Siegelaub comments that, “art institution without social authority and its subservience to power could be very interesting, imaginative, and even spontaneous, but to degree to which it achieves this authority, it loses these possibilities (quoted by Siegelaub, 2008, 121).” Thus art institution should understand contradictions of changing new structure to formulate creative contents, but lose larger interests.

However, art institutions in China can not be simply defined by various contents because of the intervention of corporate facilities such as a bank, estate investment and a private-owned enterprise. These types of galleries can be defined as corporate-funded art galleries, which differ from national museums, non-profit or commercial galleries. In fact, approximately 95% corporate-funded galleries are invested in real estate companies (, and they are not formulated in monolithic gallery system. The contents of gallery practices are never “free” and indeed are always blocked by budgets and curatorial control, by restrictive definitions of art institution and governmental control (Cifford, 1997, 2004)

The term corporate-funded gallery has been in China for ten years since the Upriver Art Gallery was established by Chengdu House Property Company in 1991( These types of galleries have increased due to the boom of economics and the popularity of Chinese contemporary art. On the one side, corporate-funded galleries have rapidly evolved during recent years. On the other side, they face problems: lack of funding- more specially state funding and government mechanisms of strict control, which make a complex and unscalable structure in some way.

Zendai Museum of Modern Art Shanghai can be a typical example, which was established in 2005 and sponsored by Zendai Group, a privately owned enterprise. It is one of the significant contemporary museums in China and was officially renamed as “Shanghai Himalayas Art Museum” in September 2009. Tracing back the history, there were more than two years’ experimental exhibitions and it also collected some international art works like the public sculpture Love by Robert Indiana at the beginning. Then it tended to change its structures and had a series of programs named Intrude: Art and Life 366, starting from 1st January to 31st December2008. The project was designed to explore an alternative outside traditional art institutions, which aimed to a public sphere beyond the legislative control of art experts (Fraser, 2005, 278). In doing so, the entire project was divided into art events each day of the year, and it introduced contemporary art to the public through various art discourses such as urban sculptures, performances, symposia and concerts. But the curatorial idea was too ideal to be achieved because of the insufficient funding and weak organization. Intrude: Art and Life 366 was a pilot for progressive contemporary art institutions and turned out to be a regressive uncompleted presentation (Sheikh, 2004, 1). However, the failure of the project directly related to the curators’ obligations, which they failed to mediate between artists’ representation and the public participation. They also failed to complete the programme and there was a lack of good marketing skill (

The Middleman: Beginning to talk about mediation states that, “Contemporary art is produced, consumed, and communicated in a capitalist society” (Andreasen, 2005, 25). In 2009, Zendai Museum of MoMa was changed into an art supermarket. It was same venue, but a different institution. Considering the arts as an entertainment industry and in term of populism (Sheikh, 2004, 03), Zendai Art S-Supermarket (ZASS) combined the art institution with an IKEA warehouse store and internet trading. It attempted to break the boundary of art serving the bourgeoisies. On 28th November 2009, the director called for the art collection and posted the information on an official website named Shanghai Online. After one month, the result was agreeable and ZASS collected approximately ten thousand art works mainly from unknown artists and art students. These works were divided into two types: original art works and creative design products, and the affordable prices were from 1 pound to 5000 pounds, which meets the various requirements of different art consumers


Fernand Braudel put forward the relationship between use value and exchange value, and he cited that, “nothing passes through the narrow gate into the marketplace by itself. The transformation from use value to exchange value involves a deliberate action and ‘a someone” (Andreasen, 2004, 24). Braudel’s point of view was applied into ZASS, which took the advantage of the interests through exchanging values. For instance, it would get 50% return from an art work’s selling price. ZASS was an intermediary agent and took over the relations between art producers and consumers to some extent.

What kind of mediation was in the work of the artists and ZASS? How did the curator work as a mediator in this project? Deleuze explained that the “Mediator” was to put ideas into movements in order to keep the world alive (Andreessen, 2004, 22). As can be seen, there was no mediation except the agreement of interests, and the curatorial idea was not closely involved in this process. Without the curatorial approach and relative selection art works, ZASS was only basic supermarket and full of quantitive ‘products’ with less quality. Moreover, there was an Interior Decoration department Company in order to have more funding


Staring as an exhibition-based institution, becoming an experimental project Intrude: Art and Life 366 and more recently ZASS, the Shanghai Himalayas Art Museum is facing a problem with keeping a sustainable model of institution. That also reveals the common problems of Chinese corporate-funded galleries, and the problems mainly turn out to be funding resources and the form of institutional administration. Though these problems also appear in Western galleries funded by private foundations and donations, Chinese corporate-funded galleries have more difficulties because there are no complete tax laws that can attract private donations to support contemporary art in China.

Nowadays it is still hard to respond to these questions: who pay for the gallery constantly and which institution can support the long-term programming? Because China does not have a philanthropic tradition to fund public art, especially in the recent global recession. Due to this disadvantage, curators need to negotiate with a company or a business people to establish such an institution, engaging with a boundary of commercial interests and artistic objects. Aesthetic criteria are always subordinated to market and curatorial programming always supports commercial interests, which make corporate-funded galleries in a dilemma, neither belonging to experimental art spaces or well- organized commercial galleries.

Some critics suggest that cooperate-funded gallery should be non-profit to gather more social support and public funding resources. But what is the definition of a non profit gallery in China and how can they survive in a non profit system? An answer came from Curator Wu Hung, based in the USA states that, “These are galleries defined by their owners as “non-profit,” meaning that they support these galleries and their operations with their own money, and that the art works exhibited there are not for sale (Wu, 2001, 169).” Supported by the owner, the main programs of these galleries are to organize temporary shows by gallery curators or guest curators. Due to the structure of galleries, short-term programming and “rental” exhibitions are the main source of gallery’s incomes (the gallery sometimes collect a high fee for renting its exhibition space and facilities). It is not surprising to find that galleries in this position are losing its credibility rapidly and hardly share interests with other semi-official museums or commercial galleries.

It is not clear how many corporate-funded galleries exist in China, and they are searching for a new system that can allow the Chinese art market to develop. A Chinese established-curator Huang zhuan once suggested, “Today Chinese contemporary art is without authorities. How do we establish authority? We need to establish authoritative organizations via media…that every type of exhibition and art work can exist in this authority (Wu, 2001, 147).”A flexible authority needs to be associated with legal support, art institution, curators, artists and audiences. These aspects need to be closely related, exchange resources and formulate a new system. This ideal system could be a starting point for an entry into the alternatives of corporate-funded galleries today.



Doherty, B. (1999), “The Gallery as A Gesture” in Insides the White Cube: The ideology of the Gallery Space. England: University of California Press. pp73.

 Obrist, HO. (2008), “Interview with Seth Siegelaub” in A Brief History of Curating.Dijon: Ringier&Les Presss.pp126.

 Sheikh, S. (2004), Public Spheres and the Functions of Progressive Art Institutions. posted on

 Song, R. (2009), The Situation of the Corporate-Funded Gallery (Accessed 06/03/10).

 Soren Andreasen, & Lars Bang Larsen. (2007), “The Middleman: beginning to talk 
about Mediation” in Curating Subjects. London: Open Editions. Pp23.

 Wu, H. (2001), “Reinventing Exhibition Space in China” in Chinese Art at the Crossroads: Between Past and Future. Between East and West. Hong Kong: New Art Media Limited. Pp168.

 Zendai MoMA. (2005), ( Accessed 07/03/10).

Clifford, J. “Museums as Contact Zones” in Routes: travel and translation in the late twentieth century, Harvard University Press 1997, pp188-219

Everything is unpredictable

Posted in Reviews by danwang on November 19, 2009

Everything is unpredictable

  A Studio visit in Gransden Avenue London Fields, 10th November 2009  

Dan Wang


After two months’ trial and effort, I did not succeed in getting a working position in 1mile² project from Visiting Arts. However, I found alternative ways to find out more information about this project. Recently I made the acquaintance of a young artist called Shaw working in the 1 mile² in Waltham Forest. One week later, it was by chance that Shaw brought me to his friend’s studio in East London. This turned out to be an unpredictable studio visit.

I still remember the day: it was a freezing, rainy and windy evening. Shaw, another artist Chen and I were walking on Hackney Street and looking for their friend’s ‘home’. Heavy rain made the scene vague and obscured our visibility. Just then,    a lady in red came along walking her dog, smiling and waving her hand. This was their friend Anna Boggon, who came from Edinburgh, now based in London and teaching in Wimbledon College of Art.

After Several minutes’ walk, we arrived at her studio, which used to be a gallery and now is designed as a simple cosy home with three pieces of furniture: two chairs and a long white painted table and an old fashioned wood stove. We sat down, holding cups of hot tea with tasty chocolate biscuits. Anna gave us a brief introduction to the studio: Originally,many years ago there was no studio here,Instead there was a gap between two factory buildings, which it was not convenient for workers to cross between the factories. Consequently, workers built corridors between the two buildings and gradually this area was extended and built into a house. Anna did not expect to take this space as her studio and home after her exhibition in the same place last year. Anna felt life was unpredictable as she had just finished moving her studio from Oxford to the previous gallery she worked with. I had same feeling: although I did not work with the 1 mile², now I knew many artists with different art practices either involved in this project or unconnected to it.

We began to talk about Anna’s art practice and recent exhibition the other shadow of the city in Jerusalem Oct 2009. She worked in the Palestinian Artist Residency for several months and made a film. The film was about a pair of shoes that walked automatically at certain speed, step by step, and the soundtrack was bright, touristy and full of Islamic melody. The travel route of the shoes showed images of the urban city, religion, local people and their dairy life. The shoes also went to another country, Lebanon, across border from Palestine, about one hour’s driving distance, but local people could not visit it without a visa permit. So how could a pair of shoes cross the border between two countries? With help of Anna’s Lebanese friends, the shoes could be shown successfully in her film, providing an opportunity for Palestinians and Arabs to see the urban view of Jerusalem during the intense political conflict. Her work responded to people’s curiosities and dreams, testifying her idea that a city is a product of unconscious desire. Anna told us that the result of the work did match her exceptions and the initial proposal was changed several times because she was inspired by the separation war and national politics, and updated her point of view. Through her rich experience of international artist residences, she always approaches her art practices through historical research or her curiosity of objects, and her works relate to the context of space, both mental and physical.

After three hours’ chat, we had to say goodbye to her lovely warm studio. Outside raindrops were falling again. The weather in London is hardly predictable, just as it is same as meeting artists. You never know who is the next artist you are going to meet.  

Zhanghuan: Zhu Gangqiang

Posted in Reviews by danwang on October 22, 2009

Zhang Huan: ZhuGangqiang in the White Cube

4 Sep—3 Oct 2009
Mason’s Yard 

What strikes you immediately when you walk into White Cube (Mason Rd) is that two live pigs have been put on show in the days of the spread of the Swine Flu. How could farm animals live in such a formal and “white’ gallery? Recently, Chinese established artist Zhang Huan presented his first solo exhibition Zhu Gangqiang (Cast-Iron-Pig) in the White Cube gallery. Following Zhang’s previous practical experience, he used to do performance by his own naked body in a masochistic manner, and tested human tolerance in adverse conditions.

As for this exhibition, Zhang depicted a story about how during the earthquake in Sichuan province on May 2008, 60,000 people lost their lives in the disaster. But it was a miracle that a pig was under a collapsed building and survived for 49 days on rotten wood, dirt and rain water. After the rescue, the pig became famous and was named Zhu Gangqiang, meaning a strong-spirited pig. Artist was impressed by the pig’s strong willpower and had an idea to exhibit this pig as a pilot experiment to present death and a belief of life, recalling Zhang’s previous spirit in his earlier performance.

The concept of his art work was quite simple, but the presentation was hard to achieve. Firstly, Zhu gangqiang was impossible to bring to UK because of the law of animal epidemic prevention. Instead the artist found two of the same species and size pigs and also built an ideal western style farm. It was controversial that the artist used all British materials to tell a Chinese narrative and it was hard to understand the concept at first glance. It seemed to be a happy farm for families to visit, which the context of his art work transformed from a memory of disaster into a sort of entertainment. Secondly, Zhang believed the Zhu Gangqiang survived by his spirit. But it was argued that animal sometimes live by their basic instinct in a biological way.

Zhang also created his paintings of Zhu Gangqiang and human skull using temple incense ash. From his idea, the incense ash was an element of collective fortune wish and attempted to show a life circle among hope, life and death. In fact, this style of paintings was not new and was based on previous resemblance. Compared to Zhang’s early work, for example 12 square metre, the artist himself, with honey all over his naked body, sitting in the dirty and smelly public toilet, was bitten by flies, and explored the relationship between artists and tolerance of the hard environment. This piece of work was impressive and considered as an avant-garde of Chinese performance art. However, nowadays Zhang, like other artists in China, is using Chinese elements and making a number of similar works as a factory production.

Following Andy Warhol’s saying, “Good business is the best art,” nowadays artists consider more about how they can run their own business. As for artist Zhang, who is based in Shanghai now and has more than 50 people working together in a factory size studio, does not only exhibit his work in the world, but also participate in other field of inter-culture. For example he also worked as a director of opera Semele in Brussels. The definition of ‘artist’ has already been widely extended; artists switch their roles in different areas, and witness the art world’s borders becoming vague and indivisible from the social order.