Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Comments on society,

Upon entering Michael Lin’s exhibit “What a Difference a Day Made”, one has to question if they are in a gallery or a convenience store in Shanghai. Further exploration reveals a larger room equipped with screens playing video of a juggler, and cargo crates used as display cases for items – all of which is reflected back and forth on the mirrored pillars within the room. The result is an odd environment, where common items such as brooms and rice bowls are elevated to the status of high importance through their organized placement in the ‘display cases’. While casting ordinary objects up into the realm of art is not a new concept, here I really felt the effect was an invocation of the Shanghai people. Lin, an outsider, has managed to parallel the massive population in this city with a mass of objects that make up their daily lives to point out the value in each entity, the significance.

I also visited MOCA, and the exhibit there, “Butterfly Dream”. It was a really interesting collection of works, one particular that caught my attention was Shen Shaomin’s Bonsai. He uses the process of bonsai, of controlling the physical appearance through extreme force, to comment on humanity. The trees, trapped in an iron bondage, remain in the process of unnatural change. While the result may be appealing, the presence of all the chains and cuffs forces the viewer to confront the process of ‘beautification’. I really liked that the summary of the exhibition states that “China’s identity is not easy to isolate”, and that this work deals with total isolation and confinement but within the innately vast framework of society. In both western and eastern cultures, there are plenty of examples of manufactured beauty and control. This was a really provocative way to express this idea, utilizing a very real, existing example to represent the larger human experience.

No comments: