Theatre of the World exhibition at the Guggenheim- Adya Zecha

Although a short visit, my visit to the Guggenheim was fascinating and had a profound influence on my views of Chinese contemporary art. The way the Guggenheim’s interior was designed, with its continuous spiral ramp, created the perfect progression through time and space in the exhibition.

One of my favourite pieces was ‘There Came a Mr. Solomon to China’ by Zhou Tiehai, 1994. I was immediately attracted to the piece because of its sheer size and scale and the use of such bold colours. Zhou Tiehai used multiple different mediums to create the work, such as airbrushing, both english and Chinese texts, traditional Chinese influenced landscapes, caricatures, recognisable headlines like the New York Times, and even photography. The piece references a foreign American writer who traveled across China and the New York Times featured an article about his travels and his foreign opinions on China. The piece created an overwhelming sense of skepticism in foreign critics with the use of Marco Polo imagery and of the ‘foreign white man’. While making a statement on the way the West sees China, it also evokes humour and playfulness in a way that manages to lighten the piece and demands the viewer to interpret it for themselves.

Another piece that I was drawn to was Qui ZhiJie’s ‘Map of “Art and China after 1989″ Theatre of the World”, 2017, because I felt that it encompassed the ideas in many of the other works in the exhibition, all in one work. Qui ZhiJie used traditional conventions of Chinese ink landscape and renaissance cartography to create the piece and combined that with political, social, cultural and philosophical themes which portray the idealised China intertwined with the ‘real’ China, which is continuously battling oppression. The six panels are covered in Chinese calligraphy for the names of provinces and areas and along side the Chinese text is English, but instead of accurate labels, they read, ‘Mao Goes Pop’, ‘China Brand’, ‘Will/Must’, ‘Great Criticism’, ‘Peak of Enlightenment’, ‘Purge Humanist Enthusiasm’, which are thought provoking and add a dark undertone to a traditionally styled map which opens the door to a multitude of questions.

‘There Came a Mr. Solomon to China’, Zhou Tiehai, 1994
‘Map of “Art and China after 1989: Theatre of the World”‘, Qiu ZhiJie, 2017

Contemporary Art in China: Adya Zecha

The art world in China was seen as being methodical and systemised, with few Chinese artists doing their own independent work, without influence from private galleries and other frameworks, which define what Chinese contemporary art is.

China’s pronounced lack of freedom and justice has had a major influence on the art the country has produced with references to social and political issues. The Xijing Men (Pauline Yao “Making It Work”, use video, installation and performance art to communicate the idea of a Western capital of China, Xijing. In creating this imaginary ‘space’, the Xijing men embrace the absurdities of mythmaking and even created their own version of the Olympics, called the Xijing Olympics, which was presented in a humorous manner and played on the mania that the real Olympics had stirred the year before, in the citizens of China. The artists competed in absurd events, like three way table tennis using a shoe as a paddle, which mocked the seriousness of China’s most popular sport and the solemnity in which the Chinese government had treated the multi million dollar event. Through doing this, the artists aimed to tear down the the highly scripted notions of the Olympics and create an aimless and playful ceremony.

William Kentridge: Adya Zecha

Last nights viewing of 10 of Kentridge’s short films was especially enlightening as it intersected with his exhibition in the Trout Gallery. The ten works we saw depicted themes from the apartheid as it was happening and the physical and emotional toll it took on Johannesburg’s society. I found many similarities in Kentridge’s style between the first 9 films that we watched, from his gestural style to the overall frantic pace. Charcoal as a medium in his films worked well because of its temporary state and because it is easily manipulated which aided his use of erasing marks. By erasing areas section by section to create movement, Kentridge’s marks left a ghostly effect which showed the progression of movement of the space travelled through which added another layer of dimension to the film itself.

Kentridge’s last film that we saw was created 10 years after the 9th film and was after the apartheid. Certain aspects of his style remained the same however on the whole, his style seemed to have changed significantly. His drawings were less sketchy and became more thought out and planned, all his drawings were more elaborate and detailed, whether this was because of more time spent on them or just a shift in his personal style. Additionally, because this was created 10 years after the last, the technology used was much more proficient, allowing his films to be more animated and visibly interesting.

I very much enjoyed all of Kentridge’s films and look forward to another viewing next week.

Jeff Koons & Snapchat: Adya Zecha

In this day and age, Snapchat as a social media platform has become the most popular form of communication along with Facebook and Instagram. Jeff Koons collaborated with Snapchat in order to create an augmented reality- where Koons’ iconic sculptures, such as Balloon Dog, are virtually placed in different locations so that Snapchat users are able to virtually see his creations.

I think that this is an incredibly interesting concept because it allows the greater public to be increasingly involved with the art world and gives them the opportunity to be more aware of popular artwork. I am excited to see where this concept goes and if it is successful, I hope to see more artists work being publicised on such a major social media network, and hopefully start to include more obscure and lesser known artists work as well.

It would also be interesting to see concept this develop into more than just sculptures and expand into murals and even performance art.


Perform, Repeat, Record: Adya Zecha

In the reading, Marina Abramovic talks about recreating other people’s work versus recreating her own work and explains the difference between redoing an artist’s work and having to conform to the intentions of the previous artist in order to attain what they had planned, whereas with her own work, she has the freedom to be able to change and edit aspects because regardless, it is still her work. She also enjoys reworking her previous performances because she is able to push boundaries and see “how far can I go with re-enactment?” (pg 548)

Having studied Abramovic’s work before, I know that her performance’s typically cause the audience an emotion or create an atmosphere in which the audience are encouraged to feel a certain way. What is interesting to me is the idea that although Abramovic is able to recreate other artist’s work and her own, each performance is different and original because of external factors like environment, space, audience and one could even take in the artist’s emotions into consideration, at the time of the performance and the effect that that could have on the performance. Based on this, I think that her effort to train young artists to perform her pieces is fascinating because those artists would leave their own mark on the ‘original’ performance, even if they do exactly as they were instructed to. Interestingly, one of Marina Abramovic’s best known performance pieces, Rhythm 0, is not following a predetermined performance plan, and instead relies mainly on audience participation so in this case the ‘performer’ becomes a platform in which the audience performs.

The Long Shadow of Slavery- Adya Zecha

“When stereotypes attempt to take control of their own bodies, they can only do what they are made of and they are made of the pathological attitudes of the South. Therefore, racist stereotypes in my art can only partake of psychotic activities.”- Kara Walker

What interested me most about Heartney’s reading was the concept of the traditional cut outs which almost appear simplistic in form but have so much depth and meaning to them and the way in which Walker uses the cut outs and even the title of her works, to tell a story and add to their depth. In the reading, it explained that Walker’s works usually represent the lives of slaves on large southern plantations, but instead of representing ‘real’ lives, Walker takes her inspiration from films and movies, like, “Gone With the Wind”, which in themselves, create an ‘imaginary’ world.  I also thought that the reasoning behind the ‘very blackness of traditional silhouettes’ and how the black paper erases differences in skin colour was interesting considering the stark differences in the figures, featured in Walker’s work, of those who hold power and of those who do not. Either between slave and slaveowner, man and woman etc which is depicted by clothing, stance etc.

Walker’s works explain narratives through the use of imagery and shed light on society’s view on slavery by playing off of popular movies like, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. Within her works, Walker is able to question reality and societal norms while maintaining her renowned ‘style’ of delivering startling and poignant messages of the past and allowing the viewer to question what they know.

Kara Walker, ‘Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart’, 1994.

Susbstance: Rebecca Murtaugh- Adya Zecha

Yesterday evening I attended Rebecca Murtaugh’s artist talk where she was able to go more in depth about her work. What interested me the most were her ideas behind her organic sculptures and the ways in which she attained her desired final outcome. Murtaugh’s strangest way of sculpting is beating the clay with a paddle until the form changes, leaving it looking textured. Her reasoning behind this method was that as an artist, there are times when she would walk into the studio feeling angry and scared and her first reaction was to use her clay as somewhere to focus that energy and although there was no deep spiritual or political message, the message of her technique speaks of where she is as an artist and her everyday emotions, which is where her piece really becomes a direct translation of her as a human. Her work was beautiful, using old recycled whimsical colours which abstracted the organic forms in a truly eye catching way.

Murtaugh’s exhibition was a collective group of organic forms which workedll together, aided by her selection of geometric tables and shelves which worked well in order to contrast against the soft lines of her sculptures.

Reclaiming the Female Body: Adya Zecha

The feminist art movement in the twentieth century opened doors, not only for female artists, but for women across the world. The fight for liberation, equality and freedom is clear from both the Broude and Garrad reading as well as the documentary, Reclaiming the Female Body: Feminist Art in America, which allowed female artists to combat the stigma of what was considered ‘fine art’, and the belief that only men could be great artists and deserved the most praise and recognition. The documentary shed light on the beginnings of the feminist art movement, a movement that I, surprisingly, don’t know that much about, considering growing up after the movement began and being very aware of feminism in general.

The documentary showed the utter pride and determination the artists behind the movement had, and their passion to continue fighting for what they believed in was inspiring as a female artist. What I find the most interesting about the feminist art movement in America, is the shock factor used in many of their works, which adds to the depth of their argument. For example, one artist shown in the documentary used her own used tampons to create beautiful, vibrant prints, while brash in its concept, forces the viewer to be confronted with the reality of what men see as a weakness, bleeding, yet also represents the strength in women and the sheer beauty of something men consider so ‘wrong’.

Not only did the documentary inspire me to push the feminism in my own work but it also left me with a sense of pride in being a woman. I also thought that the idea of maintaining the fight for equality and feminist art, brought on by many of the artists in the documentary, and the need to continue shedding light on feminist art as generations come and go, is incredibly important if not necessary.

Making Paper: Hong Hong by Adya Zecha

“The process is a performance, a back and forth between creation and destruction”

As an artist, I have never considered paper, the medium on which I usually paint on, as the ‘art’. However Hong Hong’s process of intricately layering fibers, of various textures and colours and hand weaving the material into paper, is a stunning representation of art. Her work explores more than just a fixed landscape but instead, an understanding of change in colours and light as well as of the feelings and mood behind a certain setting. She also takes inspiration from “things that might shape a person’s experiences of the land” Hong combines Tibetan and Japanese traditional forms of paper making, however she does so in a contemporary style, in terms of process and scale. Her ‘mobile paper studio’ gives her the freedom to travel and create, taking inspiration from different places, landscapes and cultures. I find her creation vs. destruction process fascinating because I mainly think of art as something created, rarely something that has been destructed. Hong also strays from the traditional use of paper in paper making and incorporates organic materials like leaves and branches (Void, 2016) and even plastic in her next project of yearlong site specific installations, Everlasting Ephemera.



Jonathan Fineberg Reading by Adya Zecha

What stood out to me the most in the Fineberg reading was how these minimalist artists pushed the definition of what art was by making art more than just a pretty painting on a canvas. They explored space and light as art, incorporated everyday objects or household goods and even played with illusions. Sol Le Witt was interesting because he used systemic logic in his art work which, in the ‘traditional’ art world, would not typically be accepted because it is not considered a romantic or expressionistic approach.
In contrast to the pop art that we studied last class, I think that minimalist art holds more depth and meaning to the work because instead of focusing on the aesthetics of the art and its literal presence, it focuses on the more abstract concepts surrounding the work like for example, the experience, the inspiration or even the thought process behind the effect the work would have on the viewer.
In the beginning of the reading, minimalist art was described as blank, neutral, mechanical impersonality in comparison to abstract expressionism. However, although minimalist art is less romantic in its appearance, I think that it holds more meaning and message than perhaps that of abstract expressionism as well as redefining what art was and is today.