Thursday, November 25, 2010

By Day, By Night

Cori Huang
The Rockbund Art Museum: "By Day, By Night, some (special) things a
museum can do"
As we came down the narrow street towards the Rockbund Museum, I was
already fascinated by the museum's surroundings. Off of the street
beside the museum stretches a cobblestone pedestrian street with old
European-style street lamps. Near the intersection a security officer
stands stone-faced. The buildings nearby all have distinctly European
style architecture, whether it is the three deeply recessed doors
flanked by arches at the museum's entrance or the heavily texture
ashlar masonry of the building down the street. Inside the Rockbund
Museum, the space was clean and intimate, unlike the Museum of
Contemporary Art, which had paint containers in corners and roped-off
sections that made the space seem somewhat unfinished.
Arriving at the museum last week, we came to see the show "By Day, By
Night, some (special things a museum can do," curated by Hou Hanru,
displaying works by artists from around the globe. They had been asked
to reside in Shanghai for a few weeks and to create artwork from their
experience. The first piece we encountered at the show was Tu
Weicheng's wall of small cabinets. The cabinets were all fashioned out
of dark wood, giving it an old Chinese antique feel that reminded me
of traditional Chinese pharmacies. Inside each cabinet was a
photograph of some place in or near the museum that the visitor could
take, and if he or she wished, to use as a clue for a scavenger hunt.
I thought this interactive piece was very fun and successful. Located
right outside of the elevator, I hadn't even realized it was part of
the show at first.
Then we saw Nedko Solakov's installation on the top floor.
Interestingly Solakov's piece revolved around his journey to Shanghai
rather than his experience in the city. On the wall, the artist had
written a statement for the audience, and he ended of the first
paragraph with an apology that the marker was running out. With this
casual, direct tone in mind, I made my way around the stations. Beside
each TV was a collection of sketches, photographs, and notes that
accompanied the day of the trip that he was documenting. Solakov had
brought with him a plastic frog that he had bought in Chinatown. On
the frog's belly it was clearly stamped "Made in China." The idea of
bringing this toy "back" to China was sort of funny to me, but it also
piqued my interest since I had been thinking about my own identity as
a Chinese-American "returning" to China. However, Solakov's piece did
not seem to explore this concept of "return" very deeply.

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