Thursday, May 24, 2007

Becoming Eurotrash

I was momentarily jolted out of the mindlessness of our usual wednesday lecture yesterday by the guest lecturer introducing us to Shi Yong. Since there's always a high chance that A.) people are skipping the class or B.) no one is paying attention, I thought it might be fruitful for me to share this information with everyone else so that should you fall into category A or B, you can still share a piece of enlightenment. I'll be concise: I think Shi Yong's faux-commercialization is brilliant.


(Note: original image available here). So you're probably wondering who Shi Yong is and what gender he or she might be. Ok, no problem. I have you covered there. You can blame his audience for the gender discrepency as I'll attempt to explain from my understanding. Shi Yong is a Shanghai based artist, and a certifiably male (though you can't necessarily tell by looking at his eurotrash outfit as I'll explain later). From what I can see, I would say he has introduced a fake consumerist grapple over his own image - and subsequently marketed that image by incorporating it into most if not all of his future projects. Here's where the brilliant component comes in (at least I think so): considering that Shi Yong allowed westerners to critique his art by their own sense of aesthetics, he has effectively created a sort of consumer loop in feeding it back out to them. If Europeans find Shi Yong's pieces amusing for their outlandish fashion statements and/or marketing, they have only themselves to blame because they voted on his current outfit.

And about that Eurotrash outfit...

(Note: the original images for the above and to the right available here). Ah post-colonialism and the old world! What the hell were people thinking (specifically in Vienna from 1997-1998) when they chose his outfit? The cat's out of the bag at this point, as Shi Yong has taken his newfound image and run with it as far as he can. And my oh my how far he's gone! Even with my precursory glance there appear to be some really wonderful permutations of this European-bastardized faux-commercial image. Take the image to the right for example. The idea is nothing particularly new - we're all aware that we're slaves to our jobs and that our place in society strangles us by the limitations imposed by collectivization. That's nothing new, but what separates Shi Yong from the many others who have attempted to address this topic is his blatantly artificial image. His implementation is simply suitable for the subject by using a viewer-influenced and obviously artificial image. Rather than rehash the same painting repeatedly into ad-infinium as do some other Chinese painters who shall remain anonymous, Shi Yong purposefully molds his own molded image into new wonderfully urban mutations. This is the first time I've been really intruiged by a Chinese artist for the underlying social "message" as well as aesthetic value of the work itself, and I look forward to finding more satirical Shi Yong pieces in the future. In the meantime, if I hopefully convinced anyone else to check him out, a mini-biography is available at Shanghart, and the Bizart Shi Yong gallery is available here.

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