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Top Australian media artists introduced at Art Taipei – public lecture by Antoanetta Ivanova

Posted by artradar on September 9, 2010


MEDIA VIDEO AUSTRALIA ARTISTS CURATORS AGENCY ACQUISITION ART FAIR EXHIBITION

Ela-Video “Encoded” was a special exhibition organised as part of the broader Ela-Video exhibition held as part of this year’s Art Taipei. Guest curated by Antoanetta Ivanova, also a producer and agent for Australian media artists, “Encoded” aimed to show the diversity and sophistication of media and video art being created in Australia today. Art Radar attended a public lecture in which Ivanova introduced the eight Australian media artists we have listed below.

Antoanetta Ivanova speaking at a public lecture on Australian media art at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Antoanetta Ivanova speaking at a public lecture on Australian media art at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Ivanova manages a company called Novamedia which has been in operation since 2001. Novamedia is unique in that it is the first media arts agency to be established in Australia; their focus is on media and digital art. They provide advice to private collectors and organisations looking to acquire new media works, and also try to generate opportunities to promote Australian media art overseas. An example of this, according to Ivanova, is the “very important exhibition on art and science collaborations” they took to China in 2006.

This list, generated from those artists discussed by Ivanova in her talk, shows “the diverse range of media art” produced by leading Australian proponents in this field. Only one of the artists listed here, Jon McCormack, had work in Ela-Video “Encoded”. The other artists in the exhibition were Jonathan Duckworth, Leon Cmielewski and Josephine Starrs, Martin Walch, Jess MacNeil and Justine Cooper. The artists are listed below in the order Ivanova spoke about them. We encourage you to visit the artists’ websites to explore their work in more depth.

Matthew Gardiner

Matthew Gardiner is most well-known for his work with origami, namely robotic origami. He has completed a number of residencies with major scientific and new media research laboratories and has exhibited his origami work worldwide in galleries and public spaces. He is also the founder and director of Airstrip, a website design company.

“The artist will design his object on the computer and make it for the printer. The final artwork is interactive. The origami has a sensor in the middle and it can sense when people approach…. As you go across it the origami opens and if you move away it will fold in…. He has been making traditional paper origami for many, many years and he lived in Japan…. He translates [a] traditional art form into a very contemporary art form.” Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010

Matthew Gardiner's "robotic origami" work, introduced by speaker Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Matthew Gardiner's "robotic origami" work, introduced by speaker Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Stelarc

Since 1968, Stelarc has undertaken numerous performances during which he manipulates his body, most often in involuntary ways and using mechanical means. As described in his biography, he has “used medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, Virtual Reality systems, the Internet and biotechnology to explore alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body.” In addition to his art work, he has been a research fellow and named an honorary professor for numerous Australian and international universities.

“[Stelarc’s] a performing artist. He has attached his body to various machines to show how there is a clash between the body and machinery in contemporary society.” Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010

Patricia Piccinini

“[Piccinini’s] a more traditional artist because she makes sculptures but her work raises important issues about the natural environment and artificial nature…. She uses organic … and artificial forms in her work. She’s fascinated by the modern sciences of biotechnology and genetic engineering and she says that if people are disturbed by her work it’s because [it] asks questions about fundamental aspects of our existence. With all these advances in technology, what kind of world are we really making?” Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010

Patricia Piccinini's sculpture work as introduced by Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Patricia Piccinini's sculpture work, introduced by speaker Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Alex Davies

Davies graduated from The University of New South Wales in 2001 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and is currently a PhD Candidate in the Media Arts department of the institution’s College of Fine Arts. He is a prolific artist who creates his interactive, installation and performance art works using various media including sound and music, video and photography.

“As you go through the exhibition space you will see a … hole to look through. Audiences line up to look through to see what’s on the other side. But all they see is their own back plus a ghost person standing behind them…. The work mixes real time video captures of us and puts another person in there. He also did another [installation with] speakers in the space and you could actually hear people standing around you.” Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010

Chris Henschke

Henschke’s most recent work with the Australian Synchrotron is an art and science collaboration that has brought about an entirely new art form – using light beams to create artworks. As explained on the artist’s website, the Synchrotron “allows one to ‘see’ the spectrum of light energy from microwaves to xrays and look at objects at scales of a millionth of a metre.” The artist is participating in a three month residency with the Synchrotron, set up by the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT), in which he will use the technology to create “a ‘synchrotron art’ mural commission.”

Henschke is based in the Australian city of Melbourne and has been working with digital media for the past fifteen years. His main areas of research are in art and science relationships, interactive and hybrid media and experimental audio.

Lynette Wallworth

Lynette Wallworth is an Australian video installation, photography and short film artist who specialises in the creation of immersive and interactive installation environments. Her representing gallery, Forma Arts and Media Limited, describes her work as being about “the relationships between ourselves and nature, about how we are made up of our physical and biological environments, even as we re-make the world through our activities. She uses technology to reveal the hidden intricacies of human immersion in the wide, complex world.”

“People are given a glass bowl and with the glass bowl they go into a dark room and search to capture light that is beamed from the ceiling. When they capture the light, images of deep ocean and deep space are projected into the bowl and then people pass the bowl around to others to experience.” Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010

Lynette Wallworth's interactive tactile art, introduced by speaker Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Lynette Wallworth's interactive tactile art, introduced by speaker Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Daniel Crooks

Born and educated in New Zealand, Crooks received an Australia Council Fellowship in 1997 to research motion control at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology which brought him to Australia. Since then he has participated in numerous exhibitions in Australia and abroad, working with a range of media including digital video, photography and installation. He is most well-known for his ongoing Time Slice project, begun in 1997, in which he uses the computer to manipulate video images to stretch time.

Craig Walsh

Craig Walsh works predominantly with site-specific large-scale image projection, most often in public places and always created in response to existing environments. He has, for example, projected huge faces onto trees in the Australian city of Melbourne and has projected sharks swimming in water onto the ground (first) floor windows of a corporate building.

“[Walsh’s] work takes a lot of time to develop and very powerful projectors and technology to set up. He works first of all with small block architectural models to the design the projection … and then he [conducts] many tests [to see] how the projection will work…” Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010

Jon McCormack

“Jon McCormack is one of the very few artists in Australia who creates work by writing computer code. He was trained in both art and computer science – he has two degrees. For example, the work we’re showing here at Art Taipei is not an animation…. What you experience is actually the computer making the drawings…. The drawings happen before our eyes – it’s not recorded…. It never repeats…. The artwork is a programme that Jon designed.” Antoanetta Ivanova at Art Taipei 2010

Jon McCormack's computer programmed interactive work as displayed at Art Taipei 2010's Ela-Video "Encoded" exhibition on Australian media art. Image courtesy Art Taipei.

Jon McCormack's computer programmed interactive work as displayed at Art Taipei 2010's Ela-Video "Encoded" exhibition on Australian media art. Image courtesy Art Taipei.

KN

Related Topics: Australian artistsbiological (bio) art, new media art, technology, the human body

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World premiere of new AES+F photo collages at Moscow’s Garage Center – video

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


RUSSIAN ARTIST COLLECTIVE PHOTOGRAPHY VIDEO

Made up of artists Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovitch, Evgeny Svyatsky, and Vladmir Fridkes, internatinoally acclaimed Russian collective AES+F returns once again to Moscow’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in the center’s newest exhibition, “The Feast of Trimalchio“.

AES+F, The Feast of Trimalchio. Triptych #1. Panorama #2. 2010, Digital Collage.  Image courtesy of Garage Center for Contemporary Culture

AES+F, 'Triptych #1. Panorama #2', 2010, digital collage. Image courtesy of Garage Center for Contemporary Culture.

Curated by Olga Sviblova, the collective’s interpretation of Satyricon, a work by Roman poet Gaius Petronious Arbiter, features a nine channel video installation of a hotel resort paradise threatened by disaster. The artists’ website states:

the atmosphere of ‘The Feast of Trimalchio’ can be seen as bringing together the hotel rituals of leisure and pleasure … On the other hand the ‘servants’ are more than attentive service-providers. They are participants in an orgy, bringing to life any fantasy of the ‘masters’.

The show, which runs from 19 June to 29 August, features both the video installation as well as several brand new, never-before-seen panoramic digital collages.

Watch Garage Center’s short preview of “The Feast of Trimalchio” here (video length, 1:07 mins)

EH/KN

Related Topics: AES+F, Russian, photography, video art

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Posted in AES+F, Collaborative, Consumerism, Fantasy art, Human Body, Moscow, Museum shows, Olga Sviblova, Photography, Russia, Russian, Utopian art, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Unapologetically political Burmese artist Chaw Ei Thein discusses her country and her art: Asia Art Archive interview

Posted by artradar on June 29, 2010


MYANMAR ART BURMESE ART ASIA ART ARCHIVE ARTIST INTERVIEW

After growing up under Myanmar‘s military junta, Burmese artist Chaw Ei Thein‘s works is unapologetically political. In a recent interview with Asia Art Archive the artist speaks about the connection between her art and the politics in Myanmar as well as her hopes for the future of Burmese art.

Although she received several art awards as a child, Thein did not pursue art as a career until after graduating university with a law degree in 1994.  Thein became interested in performace art in the late 1990’s and began to create her own works with encouragement from more experienced performance artists.

Artists Chaw Ei Thein and Htein Lin at Lin's London exhibition

Artists Chaw Ei Thein and Htein Lin at Lin's London exhibition.

In 2004, Thein took part in the Nippon International Performance Art Festival (NIPAF) which she credits as opening the door for her involvement in the performance art community. During the interview with Asia Art Archive she does not hesitate to humbly thank her mentors for such opportunities.

“I did my very first street performance in Tokyo – and I still thank Seiji Shimoda and Aye Ko for giving me this great opportunity… Seiji Shimoda and NIPAF have played an important role in engaging Asian and international artists, to work together and create more networks. This was how I got the chance to network and make contacts with many Asian and western artists”

From this point, her career as a performance artist took off. She participated in several other major art festivals such as Open in Beijing in 2007. In addition to performance, Thein maintained an interest in several other mediums ranging from painting to installation.

Regardless of the medium she chooses, the political nature of her work remains a constant. At times, Thein even feels limited by her drive to reflect on the current climate in her homeland.

Thein's performance piece at NARS Open Studios event, May 15, 2010

Thein's performance piece at NARS Open Studios event in May 2010.

“Whenever I try to create something, it just appears in my mind as relating to my country’s current situation – my friends who are still in prison, and the people in Burma… I cannot get away from this issue, even today. I don’t know how to change the subject to create something else. That is my own problem, and the conflict within me”

The politcally minded Thein also elaborates on her struggles with automatic self-censorship even when working outside of Myanmar. For those artists who grew up in Myanmar and now have the chance to work abroad, concern for friends and family back home affects the kind of art they create. Fear of retaliation against loved ones living in Myanmar leads Thein to think carefully about what kind of art she she displays in public in any location.

Chaw Ei Thein, MEs, Performance, 2003

Chaw Ei Thein in a 2003 performance piece.

” I am a Burmese artist living under a military junta, I am used to being limited with what I can and cannot create inside Burma… There is a problem now whenever I want to create something: I have controlled myself already, automatically. …These “fears” and “worries” control me even when I am creating art outside of Burma.”

Being faced with the task of connecting the creative and political aspects of her art, Thein has developed ways to show subtle but powerful connections between the two. Though the artist worries that some of these connections may be lost on Western audiences, the conditions in Mayanmar are on her mind daily and show up in her art just as often.

“How can I help do something for the people who cannot speak out about what is happening in my country? I cannot escape these thoughts – that is why all of my paintings and performances are mostly about this.”

It is clear that the artist also has a passion for art education, a field that she feels is underdeveloped in Myanmar, especially in rural areas. In addition to preparing for upcoming shows, including a collaborative show with Htein Lin in November, Thein’s current activities include readying her second children’s’ book on art.

When asked by Asia Art Archive what she would improve in Myanmar’s art scene Thein’s answers reflect her desire to bring art to the people.

“Most people think about having art activities in cities like Rangoon (Yangon). I am more interested in doing it in other regions and places. It could be anywhere…”

Chaw Ei Thein, HeShe I, Acrylic on Paper, 2007

Chaw Ei Thein, 'HeShe I', acrylic on paper, 2007.

Even with all of this, Thein doesn’t take herself too seriously. She is constantly moving from city to city, still unsure of where to settle down and seemingly not too anxious to make this decision. For her, art is not about formality or rules, it is simply about making the art that she wants to create.  Whether people applaud her or not, she continues to create powerful and moving pieces on her own terms.

Read the full article on Asia Art Archive

EH/KN

Related Topics: Southeast Asian artistsperformance art, political artactivist art

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Posted in Collage, Human Body, Installation, Myanmar/Burmese, Oil, Painting, Performance, Political, Prison, Public art, Sculpture, Social, Southeast Asian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

3 young Chinese artists awarded prizes at inaugural Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Posted by artradar on May 21, 2010


PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL BEIJING AWARDS

As part of the launch of the first annual Caochangdi PhotoSpring festival, held in Beijing, China, from 17 April to 30 June this year, three young Chinese artists were awarded a prize for their outstanding work in photography. The three award winners were selected out of 20 semi-finalists who in turn had been chosen from over 200 submissions from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of the world.

International panel of experts awards photography prize

A panel of international photography experts including Eva Respini (Associate Curator, Photography Department, Museum of Modern Art, USA), François Hébel (Director of Les Recontres d’Arles, France), Karen Smith (Photography Critic and Curator, UK), Kotaro Iizawa (Photography Critic, Japan), and RongRong (co-founder of the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, China) made up the members of the jury and selected the recipient of the Three Shadows Photography Award 2010.

The festival was directed by well-known artist couple RongRong & inri, founders of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, together with Berenice Angremy. The director of Les Rencontres d’Arles, François Hébel, acted as guest curator. According to the event’s website, the award aims to support and encourage new talent and give them greater exposure both locally and internationally.

This year’s 3 winners

The winner of the third annual Three Shadows Photography Award and the 80,000 RMB cash prize was 28 year old Shandong province native, Zhang Xiao. In his They Series of 2009 he deals with ordinary people who, because of their jobs, are often relegated to the fringes of society. The artist describes his work: “In real life, they are a group of very ordinary people, with their own lives and careers, but in these photographs, they seem strange and absurd, and very unreal. Behind this ostentatious city there is always grief and tears, indifference and cruelty. I met them by chance and I longed to understand each of their lives and experiences. Perhaps our daily lives are all absurd. I long to understand the meaning of our existence.”

Zhang Xiao, They Series No.01, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Zhang Xiao, They Series No.01, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Winner of this year’s Shiseido Prize and a 20,000 RMB cash prize was Wang Huan. Born in Shandong Province in 1989, her Alley Scrawl Series (2009) of black and white images was taken of the people, animals and places of the small town of Zhuantang, near Hangzhou. The artist was drawn to recording the lives of its “simple, decent” inhabitants. “It was this simplicity that… made me want to record their lives and engage in this narration about life’s vicissitudes” says the artist.

Wang Huan, Alley Scrawl series No. 2, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Wang Huan, Alley Scrawl series No. 2, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

The haunting black and white works of the winner of The Tierney Fellowship a and 5,000 USD cash prize, Huang Xiaoliang, deal with memory and a yearning for a better future. The Hunan Province-born artist (1985) presented his An Expectation or a New Miracle Series (2008-2009), with its shadows and dream-like images drawn from the artist’s memory. The artist states, “Many things from my memory appear in these works; these things are from scenes that I remember.”

Huang Xiaoliang. An Expectation or a New Miracle Series No. 15 2008-2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Huang Xiaoliang. An Expectation or a New Miracle Series No. 15 2008-2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Caochangdi PhotoSpring and Arles in Beijing

The photo festival was held at one of Beijing’s top art districts, Caochangdi. Caochangdi PhotoSpring partnered with 40 year old French photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles. This is the first time that the Arles’ exhibitions have been shown outside of France.

Caochangdi PhotoSpring offered a myriad of exhibitions from 27 participant galleries featuring both Chinese and international artists. The festival also featured slide shows and discussions, documentary film screenings, book launches and even musical concerts. Some exhibitions and activities run into the month of July.

The main hub of activity, including the venue for the opening ceremony and the announcement of the festival winners, was at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre. This centre, which was opened in 2007, focuses solely on photography and video art. The Centre was designed by Chinese artist/architect Ai Weiwei.

Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

The courtyard of the Ai Weiwei designed Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing, China. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

The semi-finalists: 20 young and upcoming Chinese artists

The semi-finalists, whose work was showcased at the Three Shadows Photography Centre Galleries, are: Chen Ji’nan, Feng Li, He Yue, Huang Xiaoliang, Li Chunjun, Li Liangxin, Li Yong, Liao Wei, Liu Jia, Liu KeMu Ge, Qi Hong, Song Xiaodi, Tian Lin, Wang Huan, Xiao Ribao, Xue Wei, Zeng Han, Zhang Jie, and Zhang Xiao.

Tibetan-born artist Qi Hong submitted hand-painted black and white images of the three gorges damn 15 years after they were taken with the intent “to gradually develop the landscape and life of the Three Gorges that I remember.” His images depict the inhabitants going about their activities of daily life such as boatmen pulling a boat against the current, or mountain inhabitants moving a house.

Qi Hong. Backpacker in the Ra, Three Gorges series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Qi Hong, Backpacker in the Ra, Three Gorges series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

With regards to his Stone City Series 2009, He Yue states, “Cities are created by piling things up and such is the case with life and thoughts.” For example, in Moth (2009) we admire the beautiful pattern on the wings of a moth only to realize that it is resting on a toilet seat. Or in Electric cables (2009) we can still find beauty in the pink hued cloud that is hovering in the blue sky, even if this view is intersected by electric cables.

He Yue. Dove, 2009. City series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

He Yue, Dove, 2009, City series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Li Yong presented his Daily Series 2006-2009 in which he documents the effects of rapid economic development in China and its often harmful impact on the environment. One of his photographs depicts a man fishing in a pond that has a partly submerged building in it without any concern as to how this might affect the toxicity of the fish he will later consume. Another depicts a man calmly sitting in the water surrounded by submerged buildings and trees heedless of its possible effect on his health. The artist states, “The people in these photographs are like me in the sense that we cannot change this environment; we can only indifferently accept it and calmly live in it.”

Li Yong. Fishing, 2008. Daily series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Li Yong, Fishing, 2008, Daily series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Song Xiaodi has no formal training but managed to capture the attention of the judges and the public with her images of fish and flowers in ultra-bright colours.

Song Xiaodi. Light Series, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Song Xiaodi, Light Series, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Haunting images of China’s Xinjiang region were taken between 2005-2009 by Tian Lin, her series, Children of Yamalike Mountain, depicts the inhabitants of the main shanty town in this region, known as the “slum of Urumqi.” These children, from migrant families, play and live in this dusty rubble with a sprawling modern city as their distant backdrop. According to the artist, tens of thousands of migrant workers from different ethnic backgrounds, such as Uighur, Hui, Han and Kyrghiz live here but with no legal papers or standing.

Tian Lin. From the series Children of Yamalike Mountain, (2005-2009). Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Tian Lin, from the series Children of Yamalike Mountain, (2005-2009). Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Taiwanese artist Xue Wei used a scanner to construct full-size images of her body. She had to scan her body section by section between 18 and 24 times to reach her desired effect.

Xue Wei. Self-Portrait - Side, 2005. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Xue Wei. Self-Portrait - Side, 2005. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

For more information about the festival visit the website.

Watch for part two of Art Radar Asia’s coverage of Caochangdi PhotoSpring which will highlight a number of exhibitions including some from the Arles program.

Read part two here: Beijing first to host Arles program outside France

NA/KN

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Posted in Animals, Asian, Beijing, Body, Buildings, Children, China, Chinese, Critic, Curators, Documentary, Emerging artists, Environment, Events, Human Body, Migration, Photography, Prizes, Professionals, Urban | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Debbie Han first Korean artist to be awarded Sovereign Asian Art Prize

Posted by artradar on May 10, 2010


KOREAN ART ASIAN ART PRIZE

Art Radar Asia is pleased to bring you an article by guest contributor, Kate Bryan. Her article, Hybrid Graces, presents an in depth insight into the work of Debbie Han, the first Korean artist to be awarded the Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Han’s work is a useful starting point for exploring the status of contemporary art and culture in Korea today.

A Sovereign Winner

Earlier this year Debbie Han became the first Korean artist to be awarded the Sovereign Asian Art Prize, the biggest accolade of its kind in the region. The presentation of the award to Han can be seen in the context of a shift away from Korean art as an enigmatic, closed world to a thriving, open and accessible contemporary art market. That said, Korean artists are yet to penetrate mainstream consciousness, but if the quality of the work being produced by Han is anything to go by, it will not be long until they do.

Seated Three Graces

Han was awarded the Sovereign Asian Art Prize for Seated Three Graces, which subsequently entered the hallowed Sovereign Art Collection. The work is part of the Graces series which combine the typical body of a Korean woman with the face of an idealised Greek sculpture.

 

 

Debbie Han, Seated Three Graces

Debbie Han, Seated Three Graces

 

The composite form is painstakingly digitally rendered to look like marble, pixel by pixel for optimum realism. Subverting the practice of figurative sculpture and portrait photography, Han navigates the boundaries between illusion and reality and between western standards of ideal beauty and the reality of contemporary Asian women. Beyond the scrupulous technique and unexpected crossbreed form, the viewer is quickly drawn into the debate which Han instigates. “Beauty is a cultural conception and has long pervaded art history, what can be a better of way of understanding a given culture than through navigating this phenomenon?” Central to Han’s work is an enduring interest in how human experience is shaped and conditioned by contemporary culture, and as such the Graces series provides a sharp insight into the specifics of the world in which they were created.

A Korean artist?

Han’s interest in culturalisation makes her practice a useful starting point for a look at the developing status of both the contemporary Korean art market and Korean culture in the twenty first century more widely. That said, Han is actually an atypical Korean artist; in fact she resists the generalised label strongly. Han emigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child and went on to complete her art major at the University of California and her MA at the Pratt Institute in New York. Having begun her career in the U.S., she returned to Korea only in 2003 for an artist residency programme. Han was a stranger to Seoul and her unique perspective as a culturally disembodied artist propelled her to document what was happening in Korea and in Asia more widely. “I had a strong desire to interrogate what my Asian identity was and became overwhelmed by the inherent westernisation at all levels in both society and art.” Despite the ‘identity crisis’ that sparked her profound creative journey of the last decade, Han could not be described as an unsure woman. She is a strong intellect with a mind that constantly questions the world around her.

The Beauty Myth

Han was effectively an ‘outsider’ to the art world when she returned to Seoul and it is this objectivity that lends her work such strength. As an American-Korean woman navigating the city, Han was immediately struck by the forcefulness of the western beauty mantra. Korean women were spending billions on cosmetics and plastic surgery to conform to an ‘ideal’ type of beauty, specifically a eurocentric beauty. “The perversity of the situation became clear to me when I learnt that women would have cosmetic surgery to make their eyes more western before their first job interview, it was a new rite of passage.” More than 60% of women in Korea have undergone cosmetic surgery and the numbers are on the increase. The act is no longer a choice made by a liberated individual, but a survival tactic. A telling indication of the seriousness of the situation is found in language – the term for having your face done in Korea is literally ‘face correction.’

Sensation with Content

Navigating what the polemic feminist author Naomi Wolf described as ‘beauty myths’, is characteristic of an artist whose raison d’être is to understand the world around her and present complex issues to the viewer in order to raise debate. Han’s work has always been characterised by the dual forces of painstaking, diverse craftsmanship and pieces which demand attention, cause shock or surprise the viewer. These tactics are combined to address questions of personal identity and larger social patterns. An early example is the Hard Condom Series (2001-2003) where small bronzes take the form of soiled condoms, an object which arouses great discomfort. Han therefore interrogates the complexities of society’s reaction to something as innate as sex.

 

 

 

Debbie Han, Hard Condom Series (2001-2003)

Debbie Han, Hard Condom Series (2001-2003)

 

Han’s work is certainly conceptual, but is in many ways a direct rebuttal of the earlier conceptual artists she encountered as a student. “For me, ideas will always be important and central to my work. You cannot create things just to cause a sensation, they have to have content. But on the other hand when I first saw conceptual pieces at college I was disappointed that they were not visually compelling or creatively unique.” Han bridges this gap between ideas and form, producing works that make us stop in our tracks for one reason or another, marvel at the craftsmanship and then engage with the issue at hand.

Beauty as Sport

In 2008 the artist created a departure in her practice by beginning to employ Korean lacquer on wood inlaid with mother of pearl, a technique which demands over 20 processes to produce one work. Employing a medium which dates back thousands of years, Han’s challenge was to incorporate Korean inlaid lacquer into the contemporary arena, not only lending it a new relevance but having it underscore her subject matter. Sports Venus I is testament to the great success of the project. The life size lacquer bust is a rich dark brown, completely at odds with the classical white Venus.

 

 

Debbie Han, Sports Venus I, lacquer on wood inlaid with mother of pearl

Debbie Han, Sports Venus I, lacquer on wood inlaid with mother of pearl

 

As she puts it, “the reference to ancient Asian culture almost takes over, preventing a traditional appreciation of the classical Venus.” More startling still is the mother of pearl inlay which forms the pattern of a modern football, like an aggressive tattoo, across the face. Venus has entered the arena of sports, making explicit reference to the notion of ideal beauty as a new form of sports entertainment.  Han draws attention to the futility of the ideal beauty dogma, “it is just a game – in reality no one can conform to something which is a fabrication, an illusion.”

Food and Sensuality

The illusory nature of ideal beauty is deconstructed in a global series which Han has been working on since 2005. In Food and Sensuality Han collaborates with a regular woman from a given country, refashioning her into a model garnished with food from the culture in which she lives.

 

 

Debbie Han Food and Sensuality

Debbie Han, Food and Sensuality (since 2005)

 

In choosing non-professional models, Han unravels the myths about unattainable beauty by arguing that “any woman can look like a beautiful seductress given the right tools. As an artist I work to bring out to the outmost degree the unique beauty and style in each woman.” Her point is not about the benefits of a good makeover, but more about the breaking down persuasive myths and presenting a new reality. The combination of food – which is often draped over the woman to resemble clothing or jewellery – and female beauty makes explicit reference to the long held advertising mandate that sex sells. Further, in the face of a globalised world, Han rejects the homogeny of culture by identifying its distinctiveness, “food is like language, every culture has their own version and proudly supports it. This is at odds with our notions of beauty. The photographs aim to readdress the balance.”

A New Era

In all of her work Han champions the re-unification of concept and technique. Her philosophy and quest to understand the constructs of the human condition are deeply entrenched in her practice, but she does not allow herself to fall victim to her intellect. Moving between mediums – and never choosing a simple process – Han’s work demands attention not just for its subject matter but for its craftsmanship and distinct visual appeal. Han believes we are entering a new era, a movement without a name, “art must not any longer end with a concept. When I returned to Seoul I saw very thought provoking work in the context of a rapidly changing city, but I wanted to know where the form had gone.” The gravity of the themes in her work coupled with her exquisite dedication to mastering mediums makes Han a worthy prize winner, and for an audience new to Korean contemporary art, a fascinating starting point.

Kate Bryan is a contributing Editor for Asian art News, World Sculptures News and her work has been published in Kee Magazine, The Sentinel, Essence and West East. She received her BA in Fine Art from Warwick University and subsequently worked at the British Museum in London for four years. She recently completed her master’s degree at the University of Hong Kong and is the Deputy Director of The Cat Street Gallery.

Editorial disclaimer – The opinions and views expressed by guest writers  do not necessarily reflect those of Art Radar Asia, staff, sponsors and partners.
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Art about curators: Korean artist Yang Ah Ham’s No Nonsense solo show

Posted by artradar on April 13, 2010


"Out of Frame"
“Out of Frame” video still

 Courtesy the Artsonje Centre

 KOREAN CONTEMPORARY ART

 

Netherlands-based Korean artist Yang Ah Ham turns her focus on the art world itself.

In her work “‘Chocolate Head” , a series of head sculptures of famous curators around the world, the art world becomes an unusual subject  in her multimedia solo show “Adjective Life in the Nonsense Factory” at Art Sonje Center in Korea in March – April 2010.

Her works which focus on the individual are defined, she says, by adjectives, rather than verbs or nouns.

As a companion piece to Ham’s melted chocolate sculptures, she has also produced a video called “Out of Frame” which captures performance art based around the chocolate heads. This series of works examines power and the tension it creates.

Another piece “Collected Anonymous 2006-2007,” features a collection of elastic hair bands that Ham found in the streets of Amsterdam. She brought them back to Korea and conducted DNA tests, even though there was little way of finding out whom the hair bands belonged to.

Read more: KoreaTimes.co.kr

Get info: Artsonje.org

See videos: InsaArtSpace.or.kr

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Posted in Events, Food, Fragile art, Human Body, Identity art, Korea, Korean, Performance, Sculpture, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Three sculptors who influenced the Taiwanese art landscape: Yang Ying-feng, Ju Ming and Pu Hao-ming

Posted by artradar on February 9, 2010


PUSHING TAIWANESE SCULPTURE INTO THE INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT

A recent article published in Taiwan News profiles three highly influential Taiwanese sculptors, old generation artists Yang Ying-feng and Ju Ming, and contemporary craftsman Pu Hao-ming.

These sculptors have contributed much to art in Taiwan and helped to advance it from “carvings of religious figures and decorative pieces for temples” that once dominated the cultural output of Taiwan prior to the 1920s.

Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming coloring a piece in his Living World Series

Yang Ying-feng

This internationally renowned sculptor was born in Yilan, Taiwan, in 1926 and decided to become an artist early in his life. In 1943, he studied architecture in Japan at the Tokyo Fine Arts School.

While in Japan, he was also granted the opportunity to study under Asakura Fumio, a master of Japanese modern sculpture. It was in Japan that he began to discover his distinct style of lifescape sculpture “which emphasises the harmony of humanity, environment and art.”

He won his first award in 1953 for his piece Sudden Rain. A Buddhist sculpture entitled Higher When You Look Up was exhibited at the 1956 Sao Paulo Art Biennial and collected by the Taiwanese National Museum of History. It was around this time he began to use stainless steel in his work.

He studied modern sculpture in Italy and in 1970 exhibited at the Expo’70 in Japan.

Yang Ying-feng died in Taiwan in 1997.

Little Flying Phoenix, Yang Ying-feng

Ju Ming

Living artist Ju Ming was born in Miaoli County, Taiwan, in 1938. Inspired by Yang Ying-feng, he “is considered a legend of the history of modern Taiwan art.”

He learned the art of woodcarving at 15, studying under Lee Chin-chuan, a master craftsman renovating a temple near his home.

Ju’s artistic ambitions began to solidify when he approached sculptor Yang Yu-yu with two pieces of his early sculptural work, Portrait of My Mother and A Girl Playing in the Sand. Yang took him on as his student. It was by studying under Yang that Ju “developed his own idea that art is cultivation through practice.”

Ju Ming’s first solo exhibition was held in 1977 at the National Museum of History in Taiwan. After this came his two major works: Taichi Series, which he showed at his first overseas exhibition at the Tokyo Central Art Museum in 1977, and Living World Series, which was developed in the 1980s during travel to America.

Ju Ming achieved international success during the eighties and nineties: “his creations have successfully transformed him from a traditional craftsman and artist into a master sculptor at home and abroad.” Most recently, he received an honory doctorate of art from Fu-jen Catholic University.

There is a sculpture museum, Juming Museum, located in Taipei, Taiwan, that is dedicated to the showing of Ju Ming’s work.

Single Whip, Taichi Series, Ju Ming

Pu Hao-ming

Born in Chiayi City, Taiwan, in 1944, Pu Hao-ming is the son of Pu Tien-sheng, “one of the most influential scupltors in the history of Taiwan art.” His father privately tutored him until he entered the Chinese Cultural University in 1963.

Pu travelled and studied in Europe from 1980 to 1983 where his works (as well as his father’s) were selected for numerous Salon Exhibitions in Paris.

He returned to Taiwan and his most celebrated works from 1983 to 1995, including Female Rider, Fu Hsi Shih and Flower of Life, were collected by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.

Fu Hsi Shih, 1980, Pu Hao-ming

This is a summary of Pioneers of a new age in Taiwan art (Yali Chen, Taiwan News)

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Korean artist Kim Joon discusses tattoos, taboos and his inspiration – interview

Posted by artradar on December 2, 2009


KOREAN CONTEMPORARY ART

The powerful works by Kim Joon depicting intriguingly ‘tattooed’ bodies beg for context. However, to more deeply understand Joon’s meditation on the meaning of tattoo as a social phenomenon and uniquely human act, a viewer must first appreciate the man and his personal experience. Kim Joon, born in 1966 in Seoul, has walked many paths in life: he is a renowned contemporary artist, a professor at Kongju National University in Korea, and is a former soldier in the Korean military.

Recently Joon has established a growing presence in the international art scene, gaining exposure in London at this year’s highly successful Korean Eye show, and in October 2009 his ‘Birdland-Armani’ piece was auctioned at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for almost twice its estimated price, selling for approximately $17,560 USD. Art Radar catches up with Joon before the opening of his ‘Tattoo and Taboo’ exhibition, which runs from November 18th-Dec 13th at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery in Hong Kong, to discuss his fascination with tattoos, his surprising journey to finding inspiration, and the Korean art scene.

Note: Kim Joon’s comments were directly translated by Ms. Inhee Iris Moon, an independent curator based in New York, with whom he has worked extensively. Any references of Joon appearing to speak in the third person are attributed to this. Interview by Erin Wooters.

Kim Joon, Bird Land - Chrysler, 2008, digital print, 120 x 210 cm. Image courtesy of the Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

Where did you grow up and where were you educated? Were there major influences or people in your life pushing you toward or discouraging you from the arts?

Joon: He was born and raised in Seoul, and attended Hongik University, a well known school for art education. No one encouraged him to enter the arts, in fact his father was very opposed to him becoming an artist.

When did you first start creating art?

Joon: He started creating art in college. Generally he doodled as a child, but did not consider becoming a serious artist until he was attending university and studying art.

In which countries and cities do you spend most of your time?

Joon: Korea and Seoul

Do you have a deep connection to places or cultures outside Korea?

Joon: Although he was born and raised in Korea and really never spent time outside of Seoul, he has and maintains a close connection to Western culture through AFKN, which is an English radio program. It is produced by the U.S. military—it is a military station. He was deeply influenced by the things that he heard from radio… Also through entertainment, such as movies and rock music. He has built his connections to the outside world through media culture.

Kim Joon, Cradle Song - Ferragamo, 2009, digital print, 160 x 80 cm. Image courtesy of the Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

Do you have any any tattoos, and if so did you get them before or after joining the military?

Joon: Just one. I got it after joining the military.

Which artists do you admire?

Joon: More musicians than artists, actually. Jimi Hendrix is my hero, my personal god.

Which artists do you personally collect?

Joon: Young Korean contemporary artists, like Joonsung Bae.

When did you first become interested in the idea of tattoos?

Joon: I developed a very strong interest in it when I was in the army. But it was during college days that I first started working with the notion of tattoos.

What are your favorite things to do when you are not making art?

Joon: Listen to music, watch movies, and play with my daughter. She is 4.

Regarding your images, how do you create them?

Joon: First he uses 3-D animation software to create the body or bodies he wants, and he constructs them. Then after building the 3 dimensional body, he works to get the image he really desires. Then, he grafts on the type of skin he desires—it could be animal skin, artificial skin, human skin. It could be skin of a leather bag or skin of a shoe. Any kind of texture- it could be a hard baseball. He uses this surface skin and grafts it onto the 3 dimensional image he created. This computer program is called 3-D Studio Max. It is the program used to create Shrek and other 3D animation films.

So there is never any physical painting of models involved?

Joon: No.

How and why do you choose which gender and body type to use in the images? Is there a significance in your preference of male and female models?

Joon: He likes both, he is neutral. However, he has a strong admiration for black bodies. The ebony series represents his desire for a perfect black male body.

I notice in your previous work you sometimes use male models with less muscle tone. Is there a reason for this?

Joon: It could be the images with less muscle tone are the body types of Asian men, which are different from highly idealized perfected bodies.

Are the images intended to be at all sexual?

Joon: Because he is working with bodies, especially nude and highly idealized bodies, it became that way. However, he hasn’t intentionally created erotic images. The images in former series were not erotic bodies, they are more real bodies. As the work developed it became more sensual.

Some of your works include tattoos of logos. What is the significance of this, and how do you choose the company logos?

Joon: The selection of logos is pretty random, but the process involves digging out the pre-inscribed images that are embedded in his own mind. As a result, it could be any random logo. Of course he doesn’t have a special contract with any company. However, he tries to use logos that are really well known, that are universal and that everyone will recognize.

What special meaning does tattooing have to you?

Joon: There are two ways to identify his way of using tattoos. One is to express things that he cannot really negate. The other one is something that you really want to do but cannot do… It expresses things that cannot be erased, because tattoos are an inscription, a kind of mark that cannot be erased because it is a scar.

Is your work an expression of physical or spiritual beauty? Inner beauty or outer beauty?

Joon: You are absolutely right in saying that tattoo or tattooing is beyond the physical beauty because it encompasses the realm of repression and desire and beauty and scar. It is the doer side of tattoo and tattooing that he is much more interested. The process of tattooing itself is very painful, and the outcome could be very beautiful or ugly. You don’t know, but the willingness that goes into it is very spiritual.

Kim Joon, We - BMW, 2005, 190 x 120 cm. Image courtesy of the Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

Are these images also implying a group membership?

Joon: The ‘We’ series that he developed from 2005, with Starbucks and BMW, were the beginning of the idea of group consciousness. The Birdland series goes even deeper into that because it is a group of people all interlocked together becoming almost indistinguishable. It moves as a group consciousness.

What collective reality are the tattoos revealing?

Joon: In history, anthropologists will tell you that tattoos were used for different kinds of purposes. Sometimes they were used to define boundaries, or to have your own social groups. Then at other times it was to punish somebody in a negative sense, to reject you. There is a notion of acceptance and rejection- a sense of belongingness and non-belongingness. The tattoo or tattooing doesn’t have just one singular meaning, but has multiple meanings, and conflicting meanings.

Why do you want to explore things that are taboo, or feared by society?

Joon: I am intuitively very attracted to that, exploring the reasons behind our ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’. Because, they can be changed, too.

How common are tattoos in Korea?

Joon: There is still a lot of resistance to tattooing in Korea. It is still illegal to have tattoos done in tattoo parlors, but the tendancy now is that a lot of people forgive, or have aetheticians perform this kind of thing.

Is it difficult to find an underground tattoo parlor in Korea?

Joon: There are many of them, but it is just not legal. There is like a cult of these groups, but they are not officially approved by the government.

What is your view on the Korean military’s stance of tattoos on soldiers?

Joon: It is not allowed in the army or military situation. Actually, if you do have a large amount of tattoos on your body you cannot even be in military service. The regular duration for men to serve in the Korean military is 3 years—that is the official army service that men have to observe. But there is this other type of service that comprises all the rejects from the regular service. These are people who might not have good eyesight or fall into a lower category of body weight, and also people who have tattoos covering large parts of their body. Joon was actually part of that army, not the official one. This is where he encountered friends…

So you found acceptance among a group of people with tattoos?

Joon: Yes, right.

Is there a certain amount of tattoos a man must have to be rejected from regular military service?

Joon: At the time there was really no strict rule of how much tattoo you must have to go to the second tier army. There were people with some kind of tattoo, physical disfunctions, or some kind of lack. It is a place the secondary male citizens went.

So, in the military tattoos were considered a physical disfunction?

Joon: The people he saw with tattoos were rejects, but were not rejected because of bodily disfunction, but because of attitude disfunction. He was surprised because he always regarded tattoo as an artistic form, but the people who had the tattoos were regarded as some kind of deviant or reject. The conflict actually lead him to explore more about tattooing, and inspired him to use that as his subject matter.

How did you first begin marketing your work?

Joon: Naturally through all kinds of exhibitions.

Kim Joon, Stay - Warhol, 2007, c-print, 87 x 150 cm. Image courtesy of the Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

When and how did you become represented by Sundaram Tagore?

Joon: I was invited to a mini solo show with the gallery as part of the official program of Asian Contemporary Art Week, held in spring 2009.

Who are your major collectors? What nationality?

Joon: I am not quite sure who they are, but I do have many collectors in Europe and America (New York).

How long does it take to produce an artwork?

Joon: It differs from time to time, but anywhere between 2 weeks to 2 months.

What kind of space do you work in?

Joon: I have a studio in Seoul and Gong Ju.

What shows do you have planned next?

Joon: I am showing with Sundaram at Art Asia Art Fair in December 2009 during Art Miami Basel week and I have a solo exhibition coming up in March at ST’s Beverly Hills gallery.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists about becoming successful in the art world?

Joon: I am not sure if I am in a position to give advice, but I usually say to my students and younger artists that one must have sincerity in order to succeed in anything. Giving sincerest thoughts and effort maybe a long and painful process but a necessary one.

How has the contemporary Korean art scene changed since you began working with it?

Joon: Korean art used be more or less conforming to a dominant style when I first started to work as an artist. For example, Minjoong misul [mass art] and abstraction were the two most dominant styles while I was an art student and virtually everyone was doing things in one of the two styles. However, contemporary art has become much more diversified. Artists are not afraid of expressing individual ideas and having their own style.

Kim Joon, Neverland, 2009, digital print, 120 x 120 cm. Image courtesy of the Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

Which Korean institutions and galleries do you admire and recommend to art lovers?

Joon: The Han Mi Museum of Photography, Museum of Contemporary Art, Duk Soo Palace branch. In terms of exciting galleries, PKM, Kukje and Hakgoje galleries in Seoul are recommendable.

How did the Korean Eye show in London affect your career? Do you find more interest in Korean art at home or abroad?

Joon: I feel that more people in England know about my work, and that’s a great thing for an artist. Other than that I do not feel much change in my career – yet that is. I think we need to allow more time for people to absorb what they saw.

What role do you think contemporary art plays in society? Does it play a special or unique role in Korea?

Joon: Art provides new experiences to people, making people think within a different realm.. It provides new angles and perspectives to think about and view things. This is a very important role of art… I think the artworks in Korea that are made in Korea manifest the multiple realities of Korea much better or closer to the existing condition. However loosely defined that term “Korean Style” may be, I think their works seem to reflect “it” better because their comments and expressions are close rumination of their experiences (that have great affinities with mine).

What is your philosophy as an artist? Why create art?

Joon: My philosophy is to enjoy whatever it is that you do. One of the few things that can be done without having to worry about other people’s intervention is creating art. The ability to excercise this kind of independence and freedom is an utmost privilege. I enjoy this aspect of my work very much.

Are there any causes you would like your art to support or raise awareness of?

Joon: I want people to recognize and understand tattoo as my visual language which is synonymous to pain, complexity, desire, responsibility, fate, the past, memory, hope, inscription, compulsion, coercion, duress and constraint, etc. And I want people to be able to use tattoo to reflect their own realities.

What are you trying to achieve or communicate through your art?

Joon: I would like people to be able to think about their own tattoos and re-examine their lives through seeing my work. Tattoo or tatooing symbolizes the multi-layered composites of desire and will, emotion and action, pain and pleasure of self and other (tattooist) which can be translated as a complex system of complicit activities. This is much like the way in which our lives are conducted in the larger social matrix. I want people to be able to feel the tension between human (in)ability to control desires and situations. That we have less control than we think in defying forces in capital driven society.

What has been your biggest challenge in art?

Joon: Physical conditions- I work long hours in front of computers and that is really bad for my neck and back. I have been suffering from serious disc problems and am trying to manage that.

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Posted in 3D Max, Body, Brands, Computer animation software, Electronic art, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Human Body, Identity art, Interviews, Kim Joon, Korean, Logos, New Media, Photography, Research, Resources | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Can you help find video artist Rauf Khalilov from Azerbaijan?

Posted by artradar on October 14, 2009


AZERBAIJAN VIDEO ART

Today we received an email from one of our readers Luca Quattrocchi, a professor at the University of Siena in Italy asking us to help him locate Rauf Khalilov, a video artist from Azerbaijan who exhibited in the Venice Biennale in 2007.

Rauf Khalilov

class="hiddenSpellError" pre="">Rauf Khalilov

Professor Quattrocchi  wrote:

I´m professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Siena, Italy, and one of my focus of interest is video art. Last year I curated an exhibition in Siena (“Erranti/Wanderers in contemporary video art”, with works of Pipilotti Rist, Kimsooja, Michelangelo Antonioni, Jordi Colomer, Shirin Neshat, Hans Op de Beeck, etc.), and I’m actually elaborating the next year exhibitions plan.

I was very touched by the work of  class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”of “>Rauf Khalilov, that I saw on the 2007 Venice Biennale in the Azerbaijan Pavilion.

I was wondering if you could help me in reaching him, in order to find a way to collaborate.

We are only too happy to pitch in and help our subscribers so we have put up this post in the hope that a connection can be made. Please contact us at Art Radar or leave a comment below if you can help reach Rauf.

Our curiosity was roused by Luca Quattrocchi’s interest and if yours is too, find below links to two of his works on youtube.

Morning Starts at 0-01 is a haunting flickering video work featuring macabre and disturbing scenes of blood, suicide and worse. If you do not have a strong stomach, skip this one and watch the 6 minute Gravity Life instead. This curious sepia-toned piece backed by NASA soundtracks and music examines the powerful links between the forces of gravity and life.

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Surprising new direction taken by cadaver artists and Saatchi stars: Sun Yuan and Peng Yu – interview

Posted by artradar on September 16, 2009


HONG KONG CHINESE PHOTOGRAPHY ART

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, born in the early 1970s and both alumni of the prominent Beijing Central Academy of Art, have a long-established  reputation in Asia for their controversial collaborative installations featuring animals, human tissue and baby cadaver specimens.

In the west they made a big splash in 2008 at the record crowd-drawing Saatchi exhibition of new Chinese art, The Revolution Continues with a satirical work called Old People’s Home (click for video). Both popular and critically-acclaimed, this life-sized 2007 work featured sculptures of decrepit old people “looking suspiciously like world leaders… now long impotent”‘ rolling slowly in wheelchairs around the gallery and occasionally crashing into one another.

Taking a surprising new direction, their exhibition Hong Kong Intervention (Aug 22 – Oct 10) at Osage Gallery delves into the working environments of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Each of the 100 Filipino participants took a photograph of a toy grenade placed in his or her employer’s home. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu talk with Wendy Ma about whether or not this experiment in spatial intrusion by Filipino maids creates tensions.

Toy grenade placed in the center of a dining room and the back of the Filipino maid. Image courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Toy grenade placed in the center of a dining room and the back of the Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: What inspired you to make photos with Filipino domestic staff?

Two years ago at a square in Central I observed the mass congregation of Filipino girls. I thought it was a very interesting situation since each one is connected to a family in Hong Kong. I started chatting with them and obtained their agreement to volunteer to do the photo shoots. Through them I could intervene in an relationship.

AR: Why do the photographs include the image of a toy grenade?

To intervene, I wanted to use a toy specifically bought in Hong Kong. It was up to them to place it anywhere inside their owner’s house, e.g. inside a garden, on the bed, blending it with the environment. Then they take a photograph of the scene. The toy is a legal product. When your kid plays with a toy grenade, you might find it cute, not dangerous. It was a chance for the participants to exercise their creativity. We wanted to use a very simple object to show how it can open up possibilities.

AR: Is it just a game or does it carry other implications?

It is a game because there are no real consequences. An example of something that is not a game would be the recent incident when a reporter threw a shoe at George Bush. However, it would’ve been a game had he said, “I’m going to throw it at you, first at your head then at your chest.” By not carrying it out, it would have remained just a concept. If something happens in reality, it changes the environment. But right now our work is only a photograph.

The proposition of the game is neutral. It doesn’t carry implications of danger. Last night someone told me that they treat their Filipino maids like guests.

Hidden toy grenade on the book shelve and the male domestic worker. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Hidden toy grenade on the book shelve and the male domestic worker. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: Why is the photograph of the back of the worker juxtaposed next to the surroundings?

Actually, neither the person nor the environment is significant. They are entities with no individual characteristics. Instead of specifying a particular being, I just want to describe a phenomenon.

AR: What have you found out about their lives and about contemporary Hong Kong society?

One third of the Filipino population live outside their country. They are a special group in Hong Kong. During the week they enter into the homes of different families. On Sundays, they bond and return to their own world. When they work, they disappear into the families of Hong Kong. They play different roles in their working and living environment. They use their culture to communicate. As for us, we work outside the family and we bond when we return to our home. For them, they enter our families to work. It’s the reverse.

Bedroom and Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Bedroom and Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: Why is the exhibition called Hong Kong Intervention?

Intervention in Chinese can be small (eating a crab) or large-scale (invading a country). It can be magnified in the imagination of readers. You can imagine the explosive possibilities of the toy grenade, despite the fact  that in reality it cannot explode. How the viewer perceives ‘intervention’ is beyond my control.

Intervention can be a strategy to communicate ideas. Ours is the study of a social phenomenon. It does not necessarily mean invasion or changing a situation as it does in the English expression “tossing a grenade”.

Words acquire different meanings in different situations. They cannot be precise. Words cannot express what you actually feel. So art is not expressed through words or titles but through a different means to pull you closer to the underlying meaning.

AR: Are you concerned that the proprietor might feel violated if he saw the photograph of his home on display?

We had no intention to expose individuals. Like I said, the photos of the maids and the homes are not meant to be specifically meaningful; they only a representation and a portrayal of the mass.

Bedroom of a Hong Kong owner and the Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Bedroom of a Hong Kong owner and the Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: What is the role/identity of Filipinos in your work? Creators, participants, or assistants?

I consider all the participants as collaborators: not just Filipinos, but also the audience involved in the discussions. They are common authors of the work. As part of the contract, we don’t have to give credit to them by listing their names as they transferred the copyright to us.

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Editor’s note: This post is interesting to contrast with a recent exhibition at Para/Site in Hong Kong in which Filipino domestic helpers were invited to receive manicures given by the Australian artist collective Baba International.  Whereas Baba International sought to nurture and engage with their subject physically, the “‘Intervention”‘ exhibition carries intriguing tones of depersonalisation and violence. Baba was keen to explain the intentions behind their work whereas Sun Yuan and Peng Yu step away and allow the viewer to explore and fully shoulder the responsibility for interpretation.

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Posted in China, Chinese, Collaborative, Documentary, Domestic, Family, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Human Body, Interviews, Migration, Participatory, Photography, Social, Toys, War | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »