Thursday, March 19, 2009
Xiang Liqing at ShanghArt
Growing up in the same place can produce remarkably different individuals. ShanghArt's "Not Related" exhibits three native Shanghai artists, Huang Kui, Xiang Liqing and Zhou Zixi, all of whom were born in the 1970s that, despite their similar age and place of birth, have matured into very different artists creating a variety of works, each with their own purpose and style. The works of the three artists ranged from small painted portraits, to photography and large-scale, multi-paneled paintings and even some video. Of the three artists' work, I found Xiang Liqing's photographs to be the most stimulating, both visually and artistically. The series of about 9 photos show people, often male, exhibiting physical feats such as pulling rocks, lying under a stack of boxes, or balancing objects of one's head. Unlike Xiang's other pieces on display (3 foot tall striped cones and large collaged images of buildings), his photographs seem to have a sort of story behind them. Upon seeing the photos of physical labor, I immediately thought of Buddhist rituals in which a person will endure extreme physical acts (such as hanging upside down, etc.) in order to cleanse themselves and overcome physical suffering as well as spiritual suffering. The photos themselves are well composed and often just displaying these acts on an empty street or empty room and although the feat should and most certainly did elicit pain for the models, the people in the pictures don't look like they're in pain and instead look almost indifferent and possibly peaceful, once again reflecting Buddhist ideals of serenity and meditation. While I enjoyed these photographs, it was the piece "Offer You," which shows the artist wheeling a truckload of medical boxes (white boxes with a red cross spray painted on them) through a room covered in trash. While it may or may not have been the Xiang's intention, by seeing this photo last, it created a si ple narrative through the photos in which people attempt to heal themselves spiritually through physical pain, with the artist there to offer relief to those who either overcome it, or perhaps to those with pure intentions but little threshold for pain. Like a bodhisattva returning to the physical plane to aid those on the path to enlightenment, Xiang work infers that he has possibly seen the light, and is here to show it to others. Maybe.