Wednesday, November 26, 2008


During the e-arts festival, I went to an exhibit called "Wonderland," which featured the two artists Hiraki Sawa (Japan) and Lee Lee Nam (Korea). The exhibit was hosted at the Bund 18 Lounge, the same place where the Cotemporary Chinese Arts Awards winners were displayed in October. The two artists' pieces made the viewer feel as if he/she were in a dream or illusion. Hiraki's pieces were similar to "impossible figures." He set his pieces in an ordinary house but then mixed in parts of the natural, or man-made, world so that the viewer saw oceans contained by bathtubs or sinks or mountains growing out of kitchen counters. There was a video pice called "Spotter" that reminded me of the movie "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." In this piece, Hiraki showed a group of tourist doing tourity things. However, instead of being in famous tourist sites, the tourists were shrunken down and were doing their touristy activities on table tops or kitchen counters while tiny planes flew above them. I suppose this shows that traveling is a lot like a dream. The traveler goes to an exotic location and experiences things he/she would never have experienced at home. As for Lee, his pieces looked very much like traditional Chinese ink paintings. However, whereas ink paintings remain static once the ink dries, his pieces changed. In a piece called "New Gemgangjeongdo" he showed a traditional mountain-water scene but placed cranes constructing famous buildings and landmarks at each peak. If the viewer stayed and watch the three or so minutes of the video, they would see the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben, etc. being constructed.
Despite the two artists creating some rather unique pieces, I felt rather disappointed by the exhibit. After a long day of classes, commuting for an hour to reach the Bund 18 Lounge, then climbing up several flights of stairs, I did not want to just spend my time there looking at silent videos playing in a darkened room- I wanted something more interactive. While I was at the exhibit, a Chinese family (father, mother, daughter, and grandma) came in, looked at the videos, and were out of the building in the space of five minutes - about the same amount of time it takes me to brush my teeth. For all that e-arts is even more accessible to the public, if it does not hold the public's interest then very few people would even want to access it. I heard from my fellow classmates that other exhibits in the festival included real musicians accompanying images shown on a screen, or pieces where the viewers' faces were photographed then superimposed on the images on the screen, or even where the images moved towards or away from the screen depending on the viewers' vicinity to the screen. Even the 2008 Shanghai Biennale, which mostly included sculptures and photographs, included one interactive piece. This piece, located on the landing to the second floor (the floor with all the images of Shanghai's history), was a giant LCD screen that showed the viewers upside-down when they passed by the video camera above it. Even if it was a rather simple piece, people were entranced by it. A lot of people kept staring at their images or taking photos with their images. Some people were so caught up with the novelty of seeing themselves upside-down that they remained in front of the screen for more than five minutes- again, about the same amount of time I use to brush my teeth.
"Wonderland" was a rather interesting exhibit but if you were tired and were not up to standing in front of a screen or had the patience to watch a three to twenty minute piece, the exhibit would be boring.

No comments: