Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Rockbund Art Museum's current exhibition "By Day By night, or Some
(Special) Things a Museum Can Do" is a reflection of the purpose and
goals of the museum within the greater context of Shanghai. Curator
Hou Hanru created a concept of artists coming to Shanghai for a short
period of time and responding to the urban environment. Nedko Solakov
was one such artist, creating the installation "I Want Back Home (Said
the Frog)." Solakov's installation reflected on the journey back home
to Shanghai for a plastic frog. His film clips, drawings, and
souvenirs from the trip transform the mundane railway trip to a
sophisticated and amusing one. On a larger scale, Solakov's somewhat
trivial goal-to return the plastic frog to its place of origin also
speaks to the importance of this origin in understanding someone. Each
artist was commenting on the same city, but perceived it in very
different ways. Tu Weicheng created several installations for the
exhibition, including "Image Bank: The Section of Environment and
Treasure Hunting." For this piece, Weicheng took many photos of
otherwise unnoticed details from the Wei Tan Yuan area. Each photo is
locked in a small box, visitors are invited to select a photo and then
encouraged to find its place of origin in Shanghai. The artists will
even give souvenirs to participants who take a photo as proof of their
finding the specific location. This, like Solakov's installation, also
indicates the importance of making a journey. The small boxes in the
museum can be paralleled to all of the unmarked, closed doors in the
urban environment. It is as if Weichang is calling people to seek the
subtle beauty of the city, and discover and pursue that which seems at
the moment beyond reach. Korean artist and designer Choi Jeong Hwa
created a screening room for movies and performances. Choi choose to
respond to the growing consumerism and flashiness of Shanghai,
covering the walls with a brocade and the chairs with a fake Louis
Vuitton pattern. Covering a cultural institution with cheap and tacky
materials is Choi's way of criticizing the secularism and shallowness
of the city. All three of these installations, as well as the rest of
the exhibit, begs the viewer to explore their surroundings with a new
eye that can transform the perceptions currently held into new ideas.
This is also in line with Hou's goal of representing the Museum's
purpose, as the Rockbund Museum also strives to be a place of
discovery, a place where people can explore, question, and perhaps
begin to comprehend and think rather than merely pass through.

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