Monday, April 09, 2007

Light and maybe too easy.

The more I reflect upon the video artwork that I see in Shanghai the less I like video as a medium for art. In museums I am typically drawn to it, if not for the thought process behind the video but for the aesthetic value. When I really examine the works I encounter as I have been doing for this blog, the less I appreciate them. It seems to me that there is something about video that lets artists get away with a bare minimum in content and execution. Maybe there’s something beautiful about simplicity but I often find myself wondering what the big deal is. At least this was the overall impression that I got from Yang ZhenZhong’s collective works when we went to visit his studio on a class field trip last Thursday.

Not to say that the concepts weren’t great because they were truly captivating, it’s just that the execution was lacking. His ongoing piece entitled, “I Will Die,” for example, is an assemblage of video clips of random people all over the world saying, “I Will Die,” in their mother tongue. To be honest, I find it hard to call people talking into a camera art. Then again, who am I to decide what is and isn’t art? Just a person with an opinion, I guess.

Regardless, the responses of the individuals involved in “I Will Die,” are mildly amusing. Upon hearing the words repeated over and over again one quickly loses sight of their true meaning. What’s even more interesting is the way in which each person presents the words without realizing the meaning themselves. This lends the piece some irony, watching people laugh and blush as they tell the camera that they will, in fact, die.

Yang ZhenZhong also curated and participated in an exhibition in 1999 entitled, “Art For Sale.” The exhibition was a commentary on the lag of the Shanghai art in comparison to the upheaval of consumerism and marketing. One of the first avant-garde art exhibitions to be held in a public venue, “Art For Sale,” was held in a mall, ingeniously luring in its audience by displaying and selling miniature souvenirs made by the artists themselves in the fashion of a supermarket. An example of the art for sale being Zhu Yu’s “Basics of Total Knowledge,” or small pieces of human brains in jars. The actual exhibition, displaying the pieces that the supermarket “products” were based off of was held directly behind the supermarket, forcing the audience to pass through sale. Admittedly the premise here is quite imaginative as I’ve sure as hell never heard of or seen anything like it. On the other hand, this particular exhibition leads me to more questions: can a line be drawn between making a statement and making art? Or perhaps the act of making a statement in a creative way can thus be considered an art form? Whatever happened to the idea of a composition? These are questions I am still coming to terms with as I continue to consider Yang ZhenZhong’s work.

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