From 17th August to 17th November 2013 at OCAT, OCT Contemporary Art Terminal Shanghai, 1016 North Suzhou Road, Shanghai
Opening: 16th August 2013, 5 - 9pm
Curator: LI Zhenhua
Curatorial Assistants: Mariagrazia Costantino, GENG Boyuan, TAO Hanchen
Press Office: YUAN Qingyi
OCAT Shanghai is proud to present YANG Zhenzhong’s solo show «Trespassing», the third exhibition since its opening in September 2012. By illustrating the evolution of this well-know artist, OCAT Shanghai keeps developing towards the articulate presentation of Chinese and International media art.
YANG was born in 1968 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, but has been living in Shanghai for over 15 years. His career is closely intertwined with the development of new media art in China. Starting from the late 1990s and for ten years consecutively, he and other fellow artists like XU Zhen have organized more than ten seminal exhibitions that have enlivened Shanghai's art scene and made it known to the world.
YANG has throughout the years participated in exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale, Shanghai Biennale, the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Lyon Biennial; his works have been also exhibited at New York’s MOMA, IKON Gallery in the United Kingdom, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, UBS and other important public and private art institutions.
The exhibition «Trespassing» represents YANG’s first cooperation with a mainland public art institution. It comprises video installations, single and two-channel videos and installations: a total of eleven works created from the late nineties to date. Among these «Fish Bowl» (1996), «Shanghai Face» (1999), «Let’s Puff!» (2002) and other videos representative of his early career; belonging to a more recent period are the installation/sculpture «Red Venus Sitting in a Corner» (2010), the mechanical devices of «Pleasant Sensation Passing through Flesh» (2012), the videoworks «Sleepwalking Is a Therapy» (2007), «Exam» (2012), «Straight Line» (2012). There are three site-specific new works made in 2013: the large-scale installations «Trespass», «Fences» and «V».
YANG Zhenzhong comes from the very special context Hangzhou represents, Chinese “cultural fortress” whose proximity to Shanghai – China’s economic and financial centre – guarantees access to information and technologies from around the world. Somehow isolated in the ethereal beauty of its landscapes and preserving a rich historical heritage, Hangzhou has also allowed the many artists who studied there to conquer a strong autonomy in their analyses of society and a sharp sensitivity toward visual phenomena.
YANG’s artistic project always addresses individuals in their interaction with the physical and political environment, subtly implying that there is no solution of continuity between the two. His work is marked by the witty critique of contemporariness and the careful, almost manic examination of its many problematic aspects: this is achieved through a form of dark humor which never turns into farce, despite its apparent lightness. A subtle sense of exhaustion characterizes all his works, arising from aimless acts, surreal actions, perplexing statements. Put together, these elements form his personal imagery, a layered research on the ultimate sense of this mad world. YANG’s provocatory anticipation of any possible answer is the nonsense, which can be bitter, but can also liberate from the imposed necessity of rationality.
Several main themes recur in YANG Zhenzhong’s works. One of them is the urge to emphasize with an irreverent attitude the many contradictions and derangements of society, which can be dealt with only through playful irony. In one of his early video works «Shower» (1995), the artist himself is seen taking a shower with his clothes on: a powerful allusion to a coercive environment which makes impossible to be relieved from the burden constantly carried on as an armour. In «Exam» (2012) two girls rehearse the content of Marxist texts and other classics of socialism, in the intimate atmosphere of their room: the striking discrepancy between the content of their reading and the context in which it takes place produces a dissonant revelation effect. The same disarming self-evidence can be found in installations like the “melting” red star of «Red Venus Sitting In a Corner» (2010): are ideals collapsing or they’re just taking a rest?).
Another central theme inYANG research is the (mis)perception space and its political and psychological appropriations. «Fish Bowl» (1996) and «Shanghai Face» (1999) both deal with claustrophobia and alienation, but also with the induced dehumanization. «Let’s Puff!» (2002) is a video installation of two screens placed one in front of the other: on one, the viewer can see a girl painstakingly blowing towards him/her, on the other the recognizable landscape Shanghai’s Nanjing Road is progressively “pushed” backwards, as if blown by the girl; here the idea that urban landscapes are designed to be manipulated and to manipulate their users (citizens) is amplified and made fun of through the presence of this “giant” woman. The site-specific work «Trespass» should be conceived as an all-embracing pedestrian crossing in which the typical pattern of level-crossing made of black and yellow stripes covers the entire area of the installation, designed to be walked through and explored. As soon as the viewers enter the space, they perceive a sense of displacement, but are also given the thrilling possibility to overcome physical limits and transgress special norms. At the same time they get stuck in the space, blocked by the very nature of it: this is another representation of the way in which rules can be “trespassed.” YANG’s sensitivity to space is also witnessed by the never banal or predictable choices concerning the works’ set up: in the already mentioned «Shanghai Face», the video is projected from a glass pan filled with water to the ceiling; the sound vibrations emitted disrupt the surface of the water, which in turn disrupts the projected image.
His need of a deeper understanding of society and its spaces (both physical and conceptual) can be seen in the desire to involve the visitors through interactive and engaging devices. Another layer is the meta-critical approach to technology: the use of the newest softwares – as in the case of Photoshop, whose spread has radically changed people’s approach to the photographic image – is by no means only a way to be updated and “contemporary”, but the most direct shortcut to the illustration of the intrinsic mechanisms of the same technologies, their naiveté and the implied danger, but also their huge potentials and the way they can alter/direct/deceive/reinforce/dissolve images therefore affecting people’s consciousness.
Finally, in YANG’s work there is a strong push to overcome (or trespass, again) national boundaries. The video project «I Will Die», carried on from 2000 to 2005 in several countries, is one of the few genuinely “transcultural” works produced in China and in the rest of the world in the last ten years, not only for the universal theme involved (individual awareness of death) but also for the process involved in its accomplishment throughout the years and across five continents.
The apparent mismatching of the English and Chinese title of the exhibition activates a further set of meanings. If the English title refers to disrespect of normative prescriptions about space, the Chinese one alludes to time and can be translated as “not at this moment”, hinting at a missed correspondence or intentional absence. Yet the two titles prove to be complementary: “trespassing” may allow us to be where we should not be, to go where we are not supposed to go. This inevitably causes us to be temporarily missing from a determined time (and space) but present in another, the one we have chosen, or perhaps the one other has chosen for us.
Organizer: OCT Contemporary Art Terminal Shanghai
Support: OCT Land (Shanghai) Investment Ltd.
Sponsors: ShanghART Gallery, CP Denmark+WTi Group, PUXI NEW CENTURY HOTEL SHANGHAI
Special thanks to Uli Sigg, K11 Art Foundation, Bund 18
If you need more information, please contact Gini Yuan via +86-21-6608-5119 or firstname.lastname@example.org
OCT Contemporary Art Terminal Shanghai, 1016 North Suzhou Road, Shanghai
Related Artists: YANG ZHENZHONG 杨振中