Friday, July 18, 2008

Space Exploration

The owners of UCCA or Ullens Center for Contemporary Art are keen to nurture artists. According to one of the curators, Kate Fowle, Guy and Myriam Ullens believe if they buy an artist's work, it enables them to create more work.

And now the couple is focusing more on using the giant space they have, a former factory, and inviting artists to create site-specific works.

For their latest exhibition, "Our Future: The Guy and Myriam Ullens Foundation Collection", one of the site commissions is by Yin Xiuzhen.

In a relatively low-ceilinged room, there is a giant pink-peach-flesh-coloured kind of bubble in the middle. It's called "Introspective Cavity".

It's made shirts that have been sewn together to create this tent-like structure. And through the sleeves, you can look inside.

Viewers are invited to enter the space, provided they take off their shoes or wear foot covers. They go in through a metal hole and find themselves walking on a soft bouncy surface and feel like their in a kind of womb.

When I took a look inside, the recording of water sounds wasn't turned on yet. But Fowle explains it's supposed to give visitors a feeling of calm, a place of refuge and relaxation.

The bubble is kind of interrupted by one of the columns in the room, but it's tastefully covered in mirrors.

Yin is a woman in her mid-40s and she explains the use of clothes is to represent a kind of community, a universality. Her other works usually feature used clothing, but as she only had one month to complete this work, she got help from many people to round up the shirts as quickly as possible.

She has also done suitcases that are opened up and feature sculptures in them, as well as clothes stitched together.

In the lobby of the UCCA, there is a giant tire, and instead of black rubber, it's black shirts sewn together into a tire shape.

Another interesting artist is Qiu Zhijie.

In his late 30s, Qiu is best known for photographs of his bare torso and the Chinese character bu, or no written in red not only on his face and body, but also on the white wall behind him.

His strong interest in Chinese calligraphy also has had him do some performance art in which he copies Tang Dynasty poems over and over again on the same sheet of paper until it's completely covered in black ink.

At the UCCA exhibition, he will be leading a class called "Empty your mind".

There is a believe that only when you empty your mind can you learn more. And so he will lead exercises in writing backwards, in both English and Chinese. And participants can write words or characters on a board which will then be carved out and then prints will be made of them. After a series of four weeks of classes, the prints will be compiled into a book.

What Yin and Qiu are doing is not uniquely Chinese per se -- they are exploring humanity and challenging the way we think about us and the world.

Their works are refreshing and universal.

No comments: