Posts Tagged ‘Chinese artist

06
May
14

Exhibition: ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2013 – 11th May 2014

 

99 wolves a leaping
99 replicas of animals a drinking
31-metre suspended eucalyptus tree a leaning
170 tonnes of water a seeping
3,000 square metres of GOMA’s ground floor a taking
and not a partridge in a pear tree in sight…

FANTASTIC ART!

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Many thankx to the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

 

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957)
Heritage
2013
99 life-sized replicas of animals, water, sand, drip mechanism
Installed dimensions variable
Commissioned for the exhibition Falling Back to Earth, 2013
Purchased 2013 with funds from Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through and with the assistance of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation
Photograph: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

 

 

“Thought-provoking and spectacular new installations inspired by Queensland landscapes will premiere in the first Australian solo exhibition of leading international contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang, opening tomorrow at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth, on display from November 23 to May 11, 2014, builds on a longstanding working relationship between the artist and the Gallery, which dates back to Cai’s participation in the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art exhibitions in 1996 and 1999.

For the first time ever, all 3,000 square metres of GOMA’s ground floor will be dedicated to an exhibition of work by a single living artist. Falling Back to Earth features installations of 99 replicas of animals drinking from a pristine lake; 99 wolves leaping en masse and colliding with a glass wall; a suspended 31-metre eucalyptus tree, creating a space for contemplation; and a tea pavilion where visitors can pause, drink tea, and find out more about the artist and the exhibition. There will also be an interactive installation for children and a chronological display of the artist’s career, with photographs, ephemera, and original art works selected by the artist.

Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) Director Chris Saines said Cai Guo-Qiang’s ground-breaking practice over 25 years used unexpected materials to create transformative event-based and social projects. “This exhibition is a significant evolution for one of today’s most compelling and highly respected global artists, realised with a level of ambition unprecedented for an Australian art museum,” Mr Saines said. “Cai is shifting his focus from the cosmos to the Earth and to humanity’s complex relationship with nature, while maintaining his keen eye on both the seen and unseen forces that impact life.”

Cai Guo-Qiang said the exhibition title Falling Back to Earth was inspired by fourth-century poet Tao Yuanming’s well-known prose poem, Ah, homeward bound I go! “The text captures the concept behind the exhibition, and expresses the idea of going home, returning to the harmonious relationship between man and nature, and re-embracing the tranquillity in the landscape,” he said.

Exhibition curator Russell Storer, Curatorial Manager of Asian and Pacific Art, QAGOMA, said the new commissions drew on the striking beauty of Queensland landscapes and the exquisite imagery in historical Chinese painting and poetry, to express concerns regarding the ecological and social issues of our time. “Heritage 2013 is an installation of 99 replicas of animals including pandas, tigers, bears, giraffes and kangaroos, lowering their heads to drink water together from a lake that is surrounded by white sand, evoking the islands of Brisbane’s Moreton Bay,” Mr Storer said. “Seemingly a peaceful gathering of predator and prey, the menagerie of Heritage conveys an almost reverential solemnity, in a lyrical utopian vision loaded with uncertainty. It embodies Cai’s image of a ‘last paradise’ and his awareness of a sense of crisis in contemporary societies across the world.”

The first single artwork to take up the entire 1,100m2 of GOMA’s largest gallery space, Heritage presents animals drinking from a lake filled with 170 tonnes of water, which is viewable from a walkway that circles the entire installation. The Gallery will acquire Heritage thanks to a generous contribution from benefactor Win Schubert, through the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation with the assistance of the QAGOMA Foundation.

Eucalyptus 2013, a 31-metre tree suspended along GOMA’s central Long Gallery, came from a plantation earmarked for clearing for urban community development. The work was inspired by the ancient trees of Lamington National Park, and creates a meditative, immersive experience for visitors,” Mr Storer said. “Drawing on his history of socially provocative projects, Cai presents Eucalyptus as an unfinished work to be completed by the audience, who are invited to draw and write their ideas on the tree’s past and future. A third major installation, Head On 2006 – Cai’s signature work of 99 life-size sculptures of wolves, which was commissioned by Deutsche Bank, Berlin – is appearing in Australia for the first time.”

In the free interactive installation, Let’s Create an Exhibition with a Boy Named Cai 2013, Cai Guo-Qiang and the QAGOMA Children’s Art Centre invite children to participate, using the artist’s working methods to create their own exhibition through hands-on and multimedia activities, which include an online ‘gunpowder drawing’ making program. An illustrated storybook written by the artist and created in collaboration with the Children’s Art Centre will be available from the QAGOMA Store.

The Tea Pavilion in the River Room invites visitors to pause, rest and reflect on the works in the exhibition. Visitors can sample Tie Guan Yin tea from Cai’s home province of Fujian and watch a documentary created especially for ‘Falling Back to Earth’ to learn more about the processes behind the exhibition. A detailed chronology of Cai’s work, including early works, ephemera, photographs and artefacts selected by the artist from his private collection and the QAGOMA Research Library, will be presented in the GOMA Foyer. The display will offer insights into the artist’s history with QAGOMA and the complexity and risk involved in Cai’s work. The exhibition will be fully documented in a major publication, available in January 2014. The book will feature photography of the new works and essays from leading curators, as well as reflections from Cai Guo-Qiang on his collaboration with children throughout his career.

Cai’s recent solo exhibitions and projects have included the retrospective Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe, presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the National Art Museum of China in Beijing in 2008 and the Guggenheim Bilbao in 2009. He was Director of Visual and Special Effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and his first exhibition in the Middle East was staged in Doha, Qatar, in 2011. In 2012, the artist appeared in solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, Hangzhou and Copenhagen. His first South American exhibition toured to Brasília, São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 2013.”

Press release from the Gallery of Modern Art website

 

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Tea Pavilion' 2013

 

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957)
Tea Pavilion
2013
Spotted gum (Corymbia maculata), wooden stools, Fujian Tie Guan Yin tea and video documentary
Commissioned for the exhibition Falling Back to Earth, 2013
Photo by Yuyu Chen, courtesy Cai Studio

 

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Eucalyptus' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Eucalyptus' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Eucalyptus' 2013

 

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957)
Eucalyptus
2013
Spotted gum (Corymbia maculata), wooden stools, paper and pencils
Length: 3150 cm (approx.)
Commissioned for the exhibition Falling Back to Earth, 2013
Photograph: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

 

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Head On' 2006

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Head On' 2006

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Head On' 2006

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Head On' 2006

 

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957)
Head On
2006
99 life-sized replicas of wolves and glass wall. Wolves: gauze, resin, and hide
Dimensions variable
Deutsche Bank Collection, commissioned by Deutsche Bank AG
Photograph: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

 

 

Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

The Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) are located 150 metres from each other, on the south bank of the Brisbane River. Entrance to both buildings is possible from Stanley Place, and the river front entrance to the Queensland Art Gallery is on Melbourne Street. The Galleries are within easy walking distance to the city centre and South Bank Parklands.

Opening hours:
Daily 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Closed Christmas Day, Good Friday, open from 12.00 noon ANZAC Day

Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) website

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20
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Yang Fudong: “Estranged Paradise. Works 1993 – 2013″‘ at Kunsthalle Zürich

Exhibition dates: 6th April – 26th May 2013

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Many thankx to the Kunsthalle Zürich for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF FEMALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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Installation views of Yang Fudong: "Estranged Paradise. Works 1993 - 2013", Kunsthalle Zürich, 2013

Installation views of Yang Fudong: "Estranged Paradise. Works 1993 - 2013", Kunsthalle Zürich, 2013

Installation views of Yang Fudong: "Estranged Paradise. Works 1993 - 2013", Kunsthalle Zürich, 2013

Installation views of Yang Fudong: "Estranged Paradise. Works 1993 - 2013", Kunsthalle Zürich, 2013

Installation views of Yang Fudong: "Estranged Paradise. Works 1993 - 2013", Kunsthalle Zürich, 2013

Installation views of Yang Fudong: "Estranged Paradise. Works 1993 - 2013", Kunsthalle Zürich, 2013

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Installation views of Yang Fudong: “Estranged Paradise. Works 1993 – 2013”, Kunsthalle Zürich, 2013
© Stefan Altenburger Photography Zurich

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Yang Fudong. 'East of Que Village' 2007

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Yang Fudong
East of Que Village
2007
Six channel video installation, b&w, with sound
20 minutes 50 seconds
Installation view Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2009
Courtesy of the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris; ShanghART gallery, Shanghai

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“Yang Fudong (born 1971 in Beijing, lives and works in Shanghai) is one of the most important figures of China’s contemporary art scene and independent cinema movement. His films and photographic work, often rooted in traditional Chinese painting, examine tensions between urban and rural, history and the present, worldliness and intellectualism. Their a-temporal and dreamlike quality, long and suspended sequences, dividing narratives, as well as multiple relationships and story lines reflect the conundrums of idealism and ideology of a new generation. At the same time, the works address the ideals and anxieties of young people who are struggling to find their place in the fast-paced changes of present-day China. Estranged Paradise. Works 1993 – 2013, curated by Beatrix Ruf and Philippe Pirotte, is Yang Fudong’s first major institutional survey exhibition in Europe, presenting film, installation as well as photography from the late 1990s until today, highlighting the formal aspects of the construction of cinema in the artist’s oeuvre and its resonance in Film Noir aesthetics. Following the exhibition in Zurich, the show will travel to the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (21 August – 1 December 2013).

Yang came to the attention of the Western art world in 2002, when he premiered his film An Estranged Paradise (1997-2002) at Documenta XI. Beginning with a meditation on the composition of space in Chinese painting, the film traces the spiritual instability of Zhuzi, a young intellectual in the legendary city of Hangzhou. The film reflects the artist’s fascination with international cinema, referencing such works as Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (1960), as well as Shanghai films from the 1920s and 1930s, a place and time in which China was strongly influenced by the West. Using camera, lighting and cinematic space to outline the landscape of Chinese modernity, Yang reveals his love of black and white cinematography. Likewise, the contradictions and discontents raised by a progressive modernity as characteristic themes of Film Noir play a significant role in the artist’s work: an invocation of the past and anxiety about the future, and tensions between indifference and engagement, remembrance and forgetting. Films that embody Film Noir concepts include the single channel videos Backyard – Hey, Sun is Rising! (2001), in which four men engage in a series of simultaneous but isolated rituals: smoking, massage, military exercises in a park; City Light (2000), which functions as a noir detective story with elements of slapstick; Honey (2003) then again, a stylistic reference to spy films and all their clichés, invokes ambiguity of seduction and deceit as the earmark of espionage, but also a sense of heightened anxiety and alienation, reflecting paranoia, possibly a metaphor for an ambivalent situation in contemporary China. More recently, since Yang doesn’t direct his actors anymore, they seem to inhabit plot-less noirs, reflecting the genre more in stylistic ways, as low-key lighting, exaggerated contrasts, a dramatically shadowed lighting, an eroticist style and a psychologically expressive approach to visual composition, or mise-en-sène.

The protagonists of Yang’s works are mostly his contemporaries, young people between the ages of twenty and forty, who have spent most of their lives in a society in transformation. The ideals and anxieties of a new generation, the dignity of the individual in a rapidly developing society still in the process of adjusting to the material conditions of the constantly changing times, are recurring themes. This is most obvious in photographic series like Don’t worry, it will be better (2000) or Mrs. Huang at M last night (2006), both depict a fancy lady and her courtiers, in a hotel room or at a night out, seemingly enjoying the trophies of their material success. The sly glances of the protagonists, leave the audience in a state of uncertainty regarding the actual events and the storyline.

In other works some scenes and settings visually recall the literati paintings of ancient China, made by artists and intellectuals pursuing spiritual freedom living in seclusion. The Evergreen Nature of Romantic Stories (2000), a series of photographs in which young men and women stare at miniature landscapes (constructed landscapes mimicking natural scenery of rocks, hills and rivers), relocates the importance of reflection in traditional Chinese gardens as a metaphor for personal orientation and identity, in the domesticity of modern apartments. In the early video-installation Tonight Moon (2000), men in swimsuits and men in costumes mingle in an Eastern botanical garden. Multiple story lines develop and diverge on small monitors and a large screen, conveying a sense of ambiguity. International Hotel (2010), the recent series of black and white photographs of attractive women in bathing suits dipping into a pool at an Art Deco Hotel, invokes the sentimental and touches upon questions about feminine interiority, imbued with melancholy connotations taking the form of moderation and accommodation.

With the film installation East of Que Village (2007), Yang diverges from the urbanity of his other work, delivering a highly personal film that focuses on the sense of isolation and loss increasingly present in China’s contemporary society as communities are scattered, traditional rural villages dissolved, and the fight for survival takes precedence. The imagery is of a desolate and hostile landscape, the host to a group of wild dogs fighting a merciless life-and-death struggle for survival, with only a sporadic presence of human life and social values.

More and more in recent works, Yang shifts his attention toward a reflection on film production. The Fifth Night (Rehearsal) (2010) is an alternative edition of his seven-screen video installation The Fifth Night (with each screen running ten minutes and thirty-seven seconds, the exact length of a reel of film), including four full takes as well as an earlier rehearsal. The artist used different lenses for each camera, but films everything at the same moment. Yang calls this type of installation a “spatial film” or “multiple views” film, and he compares the technique to a contemporary form of the Chinese hand scroll. We see the itinerant youths who often occupy his films, with their pensive, inhibited expressions. Each screen features one solitary “absolute” protagonist; together they compose a series of distinct and mutually unbeknownst worlds. One screen’s lead character, in turn, becomes another’s extra. The sets and props are Yang’s most elaborate to date, with stages, spiral staircases, and alleyways merging into one. The enclosed courtyard in which the piece was shot comes to resemble a maze, pushing the concept of the narrative spatial possibilities of cinema. This bold experiment, which takes an open, outdoor space as an interior, breaks down a boundary that runs throughout Yang’s other films, which have been shot entirely inside or entirely outside. The “rehearsal” version captures the video output from seven monitors that were connected to seven film cameras and ends in “failure”, as one witnesses that one of the cameras breaks, leaving only six channels, assuming the notion that film is both a medium and a site. Additionally, there are three screens of photo documentation and a documentary. Yang coined it a “preview film” because of its raw-image quality, which included viewfinder frames, contradicting the very slick and refined results of the known version. In this instance, Yang transcended his traditional working process of shooting-editing-screening, and pushed further his theory that “anything which has been filmed can be shown. I found that what attracts me the most, and becomes my material, is the process of filmmaking itself.”

Press release from the Kunsthalle Zürich website

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Yang Fudong. 'Shenjia alley. Fairy (1)' 2000

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Yang Fudong
Shenjia alley. Fairy (1)
2000
C-print
96 x 150 cm
Courtesy of the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris; ShanghART gallery, Shanghai

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Yang Fudong. 'East of Que Village' 2007

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Yang Fudong
East of Que Village
2007
Six channel video installation, b&w, with sound
20 minutes 50 seconds
Courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris, ShanghART gallery, Shanghai

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Yang Fudong. 'Mrs. Huang at M last Night (8)' 2006

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Yang Fudong
Mrs. Huang at M last Night (8)
2006
C-print, b&w
120 x 180 cm
Courtesy of the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris; ShanghART gallery, Shanghai

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Yang Fudong. 'An Estranged Paradise (mo sheng tian tang)' 1997-2002

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Yang Fudong
An Estranged Paradise (mo sheng tian tang)
1997-2002
Five-channel video (35 mm b&w film transferred to DVD), music by Jin Wang
76 minutes
Courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris, ShanghART gallery, Shanghai

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Yang Fudong. 'I love my motherland (wo ai wo de zhu guo)' 1999

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Yang Fudong
I love my motherland (wo ai wo de zhu guo)
1999
5-channel b&w video-installation
12 minutes
Courtesy of the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris; ShanghART gallery, Shanghai

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Yang Fudong. 'City Light (Cheng shi Zhi guang)' 2000

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Yang Fudong
City Light (Cheng shi Zhi guang)
2000
Single-channel video, color, with sound
6 minutes
Courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris, ShanghART gallery, Shanghai

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Yang Fudong. 'International Hotel (1)' 2010

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Yang Fudong
International Hotel (1)
2010
Inkjet print, b&w
180 x 120 cm
Courtesy of the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris; ShanghART gallery, Shanghai

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Yang Fudong. 'The First Intellectual' 2000

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Yang Fudong
The First Intellectual
2000
C-print
193 x 127 cm
Courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris, ShanghART gallery, Shanghai

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Kunsthalle Zürich
Limmatstrasse 270
CH-8005 Zürich
T: +41 (0) 44 272 15 15

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 11am – 6pm
Thursday: 11am – 8pm, free admission from 5 – 8pm
Saturday, Sunday, as well as public holidays: 10am – 5pm
Monday closed

Kunsthalle Zürich website

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23
Feb
12

Review: ‘Looking at Looking’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th September 2011 – 4th March 2012

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“The paradox is the more we seek to fix our vision of the world and to control it the less sure we are as to who we are and what our place is in the world.”

Marcus Bunyan 2011

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This is a delightful, intimate exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria that examines how looking through a camera directs and structures the way we see the world. The exhibition mines the same ground as one of my top exhibitions from last year, In camera and in public that was presented at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy.

Numerous artists use photography to examine the ways in which gender, race and sexuality have been ‘looked at’ in visual culture, including the politics of looking in relation to Indigenous cultures and identities. In I split your gaze (1997) by Brook Andrew, the artist has split the face of an Aboriginal man down the middle, and reassembled the face ear to ear. No longer can we look on the man as a whole because our gaze is split. Andrew is said to have “reclaimed” the image from colonial scientific, anthropological documentation but this presupposes some holistic whole existed a priori to white intervention. The split photograph does alter perception but to what extent it promotes a different reading, a postcolonial gaze that is understood as such by the viewer, is debatable.

Chi Peng poses more interesting gender reversals and masquerades. In Consubstantiality (2004, below) misaligned pairs of people, of androgynous face and hard to distinguish gender, are “reflected” in a pseudo mirror. Consubstantiality references the Christian principle describing the intertwined relationship of the Trinity (God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) as being of one essence, one being.

“Chi Peng uses digital technologies to manipulate photographic surfaces and often uses his own body and identity as a homosexual man living in China as a means of creating new ways of looking at himself and at the construction of identity… With powdered faces and bodies, the naked ‘reflections’ press the palms of their hands together across a pane of glass. At first glance, it is as though the photographer is intruding on a private scene, a moment of self-scrutiny in a mirror. However the hands do not quite align and the gazes diverge…”1

This self-reflexivity and its relation to the Lacan’s mirror stage in the development of male and female identity – in which the mirror can be looked at and looks back in return – lends these ethereal images real beauty and presence as they explore the psychology of identity and gender reversal.

“Photographers Ashley Gilbertson and John Imming, and collaborative artists Lyndell Brown and Charles Green have all used cameras to document war, and their works off three distinct views.The common link appears to be an engagement with ideas of the observer and the observed and questioning who is looking at whom, and why?”2 Attempting an apolitical view of the war in Iraq, Gilbertson was embedded with different US military outfits on numerous visits to the country between 2002-08, reliant on them for his safety. Many of his “objective” photographs deal with representations of surveillance and covert looking from ‘within the ranks’. But not from within enemy ranks. The very fact of his embedding, his lying down within a disciplinary system of control and power, to shoot from one point of view, politicises his gaze.

Brown and Green’s painterly photograph features a tightly choreographed scene, “a market within a military camp in which traders were invited to sell their wares. The scene is indicative, however, of the ‘strained atmosphere’ prevalent when different cultures interact in military situations – seemingly harmonious but concealing the ‘control that was exerted in the selection of traders’.”3 This traditional tableau vivant sees the traders become actors on a stage, their gaze directed towards the female officer at the centre of the group holding a piece of clothing which is blocked from our view. We the viewer are excluded from the circle of gazes; we become other, looking at the looking of the traders. Their gaze and our gaze are at cross-purpose; we wish to become a player on the stage but are denied access and can only observe the spectacle from a distance. Excluded, the viewer feels disempowered, the photographic mise en scène leaving me unmoved.

John Imming’s photographs use found images from the Vietnam war, the first war in which photographers had unrestricted access and were given absolute freedom to record what they saw. Vietnam was a stage for intense exploration, photographers bombarding the public with images of extreme violence. Imming rephotographs images from the television screen using a Leica camera, abstracting them into darkly hued creatures, the borders miming the shape of early television screens. “The images become abstracted and our gaze is ‘reduced’ into blurred shapes of contrasting tones … His photographs force us to slow down the memories of the somewhat ephemeral television imagery and look deeply at what is being portrayed, and how.”4 These photographs fail in that task for they are very surface photographs. The photographs do not have the structure to support such a vision nor the support of beauty to prick the consciousness of the gaze. They are ugly images because war is ugly and abstracting them in order to ask the viewer to look deeply and have an incredible insight into the condition ‘war’ and how it is portrayed simply did not work for me.

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The two standout works in the exhibition are Thomas Struth’s luminous photograph Pergamon Museum IV, Berlin (2001, below) and Bill Henson’s seminal (perhaps even ubiquitous) series Untitled 1980/82 (1980-82, see above) – these photographs seem to be everywhere at the moment, perhaps a change is as good as a rest!

Struth’s magnificent large colour photograph is an investigation into the theatre of seeing. In the photograph Struth directs his cast and choreographs the visitors, the arrangement of the spectators re-assembling the open-ended narrative of the 2nd century Telephos frieze behind. “Similarities between the poses of the audience members and the poses of the carve relief figures gradually emerge, suggesting an unconscious dialogue between the viewers and the objects they regard. The result of Struth’s directorial mode of working is the creation of a type of theatre based on intersecting viewpoints, raising questions about the gaze of the spectator and the process of looking at works of art and each other.”5

Beholders observe beholders and the subjects of vision become historical, according to art historian Wold-Dieter Heilmeyer.

The suffused light that falls from the skylight leaves no shadow.
A man who casts no shadow has no soul.
The shadow according to Jung is the seat of creativity.
Here there is no depth of field, the sculptures and the figures feel like they are almost on one plane.
None of the viewers looks at the camera, they avoid its probing gaze, passively becoming the feminine aspect – like the central raised figure, robbed of head and arms, being gazed upon from all sides. We, the viewer, are looking at the spectacle of the viewers looking at the frieze. Looking at looking the observer becomes the observed (surveillance camera where are you?)
Consider the freeze frame of the models as they posed for the sculptor all those years ago; the freeze frame of the sculptures themselves; the freeze frame of the spectators posing for the camera; the freeze frame of the photograph itself; and then consider the freeze frame of time and space as we stand before the photograph looking at it. Then notice the women in the photograph videotaping the scene, another excoriating layer that tears at the fabric of time and looking, that causes lacrimation for our absent soul. What a photograph!

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The Henson photographs are presented in a wonderfully musical installation, mimicking the movement of the crowds portrayed. I republish below my comments on this series from the review of the In camera and in public exhibition.

“A selection of photographs from the Crowd Series (1980 – 82) by Bill Henson. Snapped in secret these black and white journalistic surveillance photographs (‘taken’ in an around Flinders Street railway station in Melbourne) have a brooding intensity and melancholic beauty. Henson uses a flattened perspective that is opposed to the principles of linear perspective in these photographs. Known as The Art of Describing6 and much used in Dutch still life painting of the 17th century to give equal weight to objects within the image plane, here Henson uses the technique to emphasise the mass and jostle of the crowd with their “waiting, solemn and compliant” people.

“When exhibiting the full series, Henson arranges the works into small groupings that create an overall effect of aberrant movement and fragmentation. From within these bustling clusters of images, individual faces emerge like spectres of humanity that will once again dissolve into the crowd … all apparently adrift in the flow of urban life. The people in these images have an anonymity that allows them to represent universal human experiences of alienation, mortality and fatigue.”7

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Henson states, “The great beauty in the subject comes, for me, from the haunted space, that unbridgeable gap – which separates the profound intimacy and solitude of our interior world from the ‘other’… The business of how a child’s small hand appearing between two adults at a street crossing can suggest both a vulnerability, great tenderness, and yet also contain within it all of the power that beauty commands, is endlessly fascinating to me.”8 His observation is astute but for me it is the un/awareness of the people in these photographs that are their beauty, their insertion into the crowd but their isolation from the crowd and from themselves. As Maggie Finch observes, it is “that feeling of being both alone and private in a crowd, thus free but also exposed.”9

In the sociologist Erving Goffman’s terms the photographs can be seen as examples of what he calls “civil inattention”10 which is a carefully monitored demonstration of what might be called polite estrangement, the “facework” as we glance at people in the crowd, holding the gaze of the other only briefly, then looking ahead as each passes the other.

“Civil inattention is the most basic type of facework commitment involved in encounters with strangers in circumstances of modernity. It involves not just the use of the face itself, but the subtle employment of bodily posture and positioning which gives off the message “you may trust me to be without hostile intent” – in the street, public buildings, trains or buses, or at ceremonial gatherings, parties, or other assemblies. Civil inattention is TRUST as ‘background noise’ – not as a random collection of sounds, but as carefully restrained and controlled social rhythms. It is characteristic of what Goffman calls “unfocused interaction.””11

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This is what I believe Henson’s photographs are about. Not so much the tenderness of the child’s hand but a fear of engagement with the ‘other’. As such they can be seen as image precursors to the absence/presence of contemporary communication and music technologies. How many times do people talk on their mobile phone or listen to iPods in crowds, on trams and trains, physically present but absenting themselves from interaction with other people. Here but not here; here and there. The body is immersed in absent presence, present and not present, conscious and not conscious, aware and yet not aware of the narratives of a ‘recipro/city failure’. A failure to engage with the light of place, the time of exposure and an attentiveness to the city.

As Susan Stewart insightfully observes,

“To walk in the city is to experience the disjuncture of partial vision/partial consciousness … The walkers of the city travel at different speeds, their steps like handwriting of a personal mobility. In the milling of the crowd is the choking of class relations, the interruption of speed, and the machine.”12″

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Bill Henson
Australian 1955-
Untitled 1980/82
1980-82
from the Untitled 1980/82 series 1980-82
gelatin silver photograph
43.0 x 38.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Anonymous gift, 1993
© Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Bill Henson
Australian 1955-
Untitled 1980/82
1980-82
from the Untitled 1980/82 series 1980-82
gelatin silver photograph
43.0 x 38.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Anonymous gift, 1993
© Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Bill Henson
Australian 1955-
Untitled 1980/82
1980-82
from the Untitled 1980/82 series 1980-82
gelatin silver photograph
29.2 x 47.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Anonymous gift, 1993
© Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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“On 30 September the National Gallery of Victoria will present Looking at Looking: The Photographic Gaze, a unique exhibition exploring how photography can construct particular ways of looking. Looking at Looking will feature works by 10 Australian and international photographers including 20 photographs from Bill Henson’s Untitled 1980-82 series.

Drawn entirely from the NGV Collection, this exhibition will bring together a fascinating selection of photographs inviting the viewer to consider the diverse nature of the photographic gaze and explore the complex relationships between the subject, the photographer and the audience. The displayed photographs will include observations of people in crowds, surveillance images from war zones and photographs that explore different ways of looking at gender, race and identity.

Maggie Finch, Assistant Curator, Photography, NGV said: “The act of photographing people involves a process of observation and scrutiny.  At times, photographers remain detached and anonymous while at other times they are complicit, directing their subjects and encouraging specific actions.”

Frances Lindsay, Deputy Director, NGV, said: “In the NGV’s 150th year this exhibition allows visitors to explore the dynamic relationship between the observer and the observed. This is a rare opportunity to view these photographs in a truly unique context.”

Looking at Looking will consider the anonymous photographer, one who is able to look without being looked at in return and consequently see more than otherwise possible. This idea is explored in Bill Henson’s series Untitled 1980-82, where the artist photographed people on city streets. Hung in a dense display, these photographs provide a psychological study of the nature of people when in a crowd.

Looking at Looking will feature works by Brook Andrew, Chi Peng, Anne Ferran, Ashley Gilbertson, Charles Green and Lyndell Brown, Bill Henson, John Immig, Thomas Struth and David Thomas.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

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Thomas Struth
German 1954-
Pergamon Museum IV, Berlin
2001
type C photograph
144.1 x 219.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased with the assistance of The Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2008
© 2011 Thomas Struth

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David Thomas
born Northern Ireland 1951, arrived Australia 1958
Amid history 2 (Large version)
2006
enamel paint on type C photograph on aluminium and plastic
100.0 x 145.0 cm National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2007 © the artist

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Ashley Gilbertson
Australian 1978-
A member of the Mahdi Army RPG team
2004
from the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series 2004
digital type C print
66.5 x 99.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2009
© Ashley Gilbertson / VII Network

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John Immig
Dutch/Australian 1940-
No title (T.V. images)
1975-76
from the Vietnam series 1975-76
gelatin silver photograph
20.2 x 25.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board, 1977 © John Immig

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Chi Peng
Chinese 1981-
Consubstantiality
2004
type C photograph
87.5 x 116.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the NGV Foundation, 2004 © Chi Peng, courtesy of Red Gate Gallery, Beijing

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Charles Green
Australian 1953-
Lyndell Brown
Australian 1961-
Afghan traders with soldiers, market, Taran Kowt Base Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan
2007 printed 2009
from The approaching storm series 2009
inkjet print
155.0 x 107.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2009
© Courtesy of the Artists and Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

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1. Finch, Maggie. Looking at Looking: The Photographic Gaze. Catalogue. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2011, p.10.

2. Ibid., p.16.

3. Ibid., p.21.

4. Ibid., p.24.

5. Ibid., p.7.

6. See Alpers, Svetlana. The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century. University Of Chicago Press, 1984.

7. AnonBILL HENSON: early work from the MGA collection. Education Resource. A Monash Gallery of Art Travelling Exhibition [Online] Cited 14/10/2011. www.unisa.edu.au/samstagmuseum/exhibitions/2011/docs/HENSON_edukit.PDF

8. Henson, Bill quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011.

9. Stephens, Andrew. “Who’s watching you?” in The Saturday Age. 23rd September 2011 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011.
www.theage.com.au/entertainment/whos-watching-you-20110923-1kot7.html

10. See  Goffman, E. Behaviour in Public Places. New York: Free Press, 1963.

11. Giddens, Anthony. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991, pp.82-83.

12. Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993, p.2. Prologue.

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays.

National Gallery of Victoria website

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08
Jul
11

Exhibition: ‘Ai Weiwei – Interlacing’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 28th May – 21st August 2011

 

Many thankx to Fotomuseum Winterthur for allowing me to publish the text and the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for another version of the image.

 

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Dropping a Han-Dynasty Urn
1995
Triptych
C-prints
each 150 x 166 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Profile of Duchamp, Sunflower Seeds
1983
From New York Photographs, 1983-1993
C-print
20 x 28.5 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
6/1/08, Wenchuan, China
from Blog Photographs, c. 2005-2009
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
June 1994
1994
C-print
117.5 x 152 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei – Interlacing is the first major exhibition of photographs and videos by Ai Weiwei. It foregrounds Ai Weiwei the communicator – the documenting, analyzing, interweaving artist who communicates via many channels. Ai Weiwei already used photography in his New York years, but especially since his return to Beijing, he has incessantly documented the everyday urban and social realities in China, discussing it over blogs and Twitter. Photographs of radical urban transformation, of the search for earthquake victims, and the destruction of his Shanghai studio are presented together with his art photography projects, the Documenta project Fairytale, the countless blog and cell phone photographs. A comprehensive book accompanies this exhibition.

Ai Weiwei is a generalist, a conceptual, socially critical artist dedicated to creating friction with, and forming reality. As an architect, conceptual artist, sculptor, photographer, blogger, Twitterer, interview artist, and cultural critic, he is a sensitive observer of current topics and social problems: a great communicator and networker who brings life into art and art into life.

Ai Weiwei was born in 1957, the son of the poet Ai Qing. Following his studies at the Beijing Film Academy, he cofounded in 1978 the artists’ collective The Stars, which rejected Social Realism and advocated artistic individualism and experimentation in art. In 1981 Ai Weiwei went to the USA and 1983 to New York, where he studied at Parsons School for Design in the class of the painter Sean Scully. In New York he discovered artists like Allen Ginsberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and, above all, Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp is important for him because he understood art as part of life. At this time, Ai Weiwei produced his first ready-mades and thousands of photographs documenting his life and friends in the Chinese art community in New York. After his father fell ill, he returned to Beijing in 1993. In 1997 he cofounded the China Art Archives & Warehouse (CAAW) and began from then on to deal with architecture as well. Ai Weiwei opened his own studio in 1999 in Caochangdi and set up the architecture studio FAKE Design in 2003. In the same year, he played a major role, together with the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, in the construction of the Olympic stadium, the so-called Bird’s Nest. Following its completion, it became a new symbol of Beijing. In 2007, 1001 Chinese visitors traveled, at his instigation, to Documenta 12 in Kassel (Fairytale). In 2010 the world marveled at his large, yet formally minimal carpet of millions of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern.

Ai Weiwei deliberately confronts social conditions in China and in the world: Through photographically documenting the architectonic clear-cutting of Beijing in the name of progress, with provocative measurements of the world, his personal positionings in the Study of Perspective, with radical cuts in the past (made to found pieces of furniture) in order to create possibilities for the present and the future, and with his tens of thousands of blog entries, blog photographs, and cell phone photographs (along with many other artistic declarations). This first, large exhibition and book project of his photography and videos focuses on Ai Weiwei’s diversity, complexity, and connectedness, his “interlacing” and “networking” with hundreds of photographs, blogs, and explanatory essays.

The artist as network, as company, as activist, as political voice, as social container, as agent provocateur: at every moment – in the past, present, and future – every society on Earth needs outstanding unique figures like Ai Weiwei in order to stay awake, to be shaken awake, to be made to recognize their own obstinacy, and to be able to avoid tunnel vision. We are therefore deeply saddened that the completion of this book coincides with Ai Weiwei’s arrest which we deplore. We are extremely concerned about the artist. And we wish that this great thinker, designer, and fighter will remain a resistant public voice for all of us – and especially for China.

The exhibition and book were developed in close collaboration with Ai Weiwei. For reasons already mentioned, however, he was unable to be involved in completing the book. We continue to hope that he will be personally present for the installation of the exhibition.

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Provisional Landscapes
2002-2008
Diptych
Inkjet-prints
each 66 x 84 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
10/29/04, Hebei Carpet Factory, China
from Blog Photographs, c. 2005-2009
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Study of Perspective – Tiananmen
1995-2010
C-print
32.5 x 43.5 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
from Bird’s Nest
2005-2008
02.17.2007
C-print
46.5 x 60 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Fairytale 1
from Fairytale
2007
Inkjet-print
92.5 x 92.5 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei. Williamsburg, Brooklyn
1983
from New York Photographs, 1983-1993
C-print
29.2 x 20 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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16
Jul
09

Review: Guo Jian paintings at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th June – 25th July 2009

 

Guo Jian. 'No.c' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.c
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

 

This exhibition of eight new paintings and one older work by Chinese artist Guo Jian presented at Arc One Gallery in Melbourne is, with the exception of one outstanding painting, a disappointment. The new work addresses, variously, themes of consumerism, stardom, sex appeal, the military and Chinese culture. Using old photographs as reference and inserting the body and face of the artist into the canvases, Jian examines the paradoxes that exist between Western/American and Chinese culture to limited effect.

Using a restricted colour palette in each painting Jian’s ‘mise en scène’ places American soldiers and babes wearing bikinis of distorted American flags with the artist as lone Chinese soldier – his face pulled into focus while the other figures almost become cut-outs with the overlay of a “blur filter” softening their features. In another set piece Untitled 3 (2009) a seductive woman with flaming red hair and half open jacket holds a bottle of Chloe perfume in her hand while behind Chinese female military dancers brandish swords and red flags. In No.g (2009) two soldiers with guns propped behind them read contrasting books – one the ‘Little Red Book’ and the other ‘A Big Naughty Girly Magazine’. Marilyn and Madonna feature heavily, pastiches in a built environment – all pink and fleshy with a silver heart (perhaps it should have been a Purple Heart).

The iconography in these staged ‘tableaux vivants’ is a one shot idea repeated in all eight paintings. The themes seem hackneyed, their language a bricolage of ironic archetypes that don’t have anything new to say about the subject matter but repeat things we know already: vis a vis that Chinese society is struggling to cope with the burden of becoming a consumer culture. On reflection, the new paintings have not impinged on my consciousness – always a sign whether the work really has made a connection. However, the single work from 2003 is a different beast.

The Training from the series The Day Before I Went Away (2003) is a hypnotic, mesmerising and powerful work, lurid even, with it’s hyper-real colours and maniacal faces, eyes rolling in the back of heads, barring of teeth, the hand over the mouth, the upraised hand, the glistening white of the blade – oh the lust for blood!

This painting is so evocative it shames the new work by comparison – you think about this work, you remember it!

Here is the passion and insightfulness of the artist. Danger and terror grab you and shake you and force you to think about the human condition. This is what I want art to do in whatever way it can – subtly, quietly, psychologically, forcefully. Great art challenges us to look, feel and think. Unfortunately the new work, while clever on a superficial level, fails to deliver.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog.

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Many thankx to the Arc One Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting.

 

Guo Jian. 'No.d' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.d
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

 

“This series is about looking at the persuasion or morale boosting efforts for soldiers from another perspective. I considered how starlets and celebrities are deployed in the West – often not dissimilarly to the way Chinese Entertainment Soldiers are used to influence and motivate in my part of the world.” ~ Guo Jian

 

Guo Jian. 'No.f' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.f
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

Guo Jian. 'No.g' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.g
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

Guo Jian. 'Untitled 3' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
Untitled 3
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

 

Born in China in 1963, Jian was raised in a controlled political environment. He served over three years in the Peoples Liberation Army and bore witness to the horrific Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, where he assisted carrying the wounded to the hospital.

Jian’s personal atlas of history continues to feed his visual commentary. His voice is both satirical and erotic, challenging and confronting. He plays with irony and foreplay to exploit and raise potent questions surrounding propaganda and manipulation.

“As I have grown older, I have realised that all of the education I have received is rarely practical in real life. Reality and education are conflicting. The way in which you inherently view the world is influenced by education which is the perspectives of others. Our surrounding environment defines our perception of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘enemy’ and ‘friend’, ‘them’ and ‘us’. But, if you dare to open your eyes and liberate your mind, you will find that the world is not exactly the way you have been told. Put your feet into someone else’s shoes to think about the world and your own life differently. For me, if the surroundings change, are combined, are old or new, it doesn’t matter. My life is defined relative to my self-experience and the things I have heard or seen. From this perspective, I have discovered the freedom to reopen my eyes to a new world and to new possibilities.”

Guo Jian

Text from the press release on the Arc One Gallery website [Online] Cited 10/07/2009

 

Guo Jian. 'The Training' from the series 'Te Day Before I Went Away' 2003

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
The Training from the series The Day Before I Went Away
2003

 

 

Arc One Gallery
45 Flindes Lane
Melbourne, Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11 – 5pm

Arc One Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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