Fu­ture Rhap­sody: Zipped and Unzipped

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Yi Mei Pho­to­graphs courtesy of Beijing To­day Art Mu­seum

Aleader in the ex­hi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese art, Beijing To­day Art Mu­seum is hold­ing an­other spec­tac­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tion: “. Zip Fu­ture Rhap­sody.” Cu­ra­tors em­ployed the lit­eral mean­ing of “.zip” (com­pres­sion and de­com­pres­sion) to sketch an un­der­stand­ing of the fu­ture. In their imag­i­na­tion of tomorrow, var­i­ous art forms rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent di­men­sional items ra­di­at­ing from the Big Bang. With­out time and space lim­its, the fu­ture can­not and should not be de­fined.

The ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes a va­ri­ety of me­dia in­clud­ing in­stal­la­tions, ex­per­i­men­tal music, sound and spa­tial in­ter­ac­tion as well as images and light shows. It aims to prod the per­sonal feel­ings of spec­ta­tors. In the ex­hi­bi­tion hall, vis­i­tors must fol­low a hid­den guide to find all of the ex­hibits. The works on dis­play are not con­fined to pieces on a wall and can in­clude the dif­fer­ent feel­ings of var­i­ous peo­ple. For ex­am­ple, in Wu Jue­hui’s E-blood Bag, vis­i­tors can charge their cell phones with what looks like a blood trans­fu­sion, high­light­ing mod­ern ob­ses­sion with elec­tronic de­vices and the life-and-death im­por­tance of a func­tion­ing de­vice. In Turk­ish artist Re­fik Anadol’s In­fi­nite House, the in­fi­nite extension of time and space in­vites view­ers to pon­der the piece’s in­her­ent re­al­ity. The main hall of­fers an im­mer­sive experience in which spec­ta­tors hold a light­ning rod of new me­dia art. A new in­ter­ac­tive sur­prise lurks around ev­ery cor­ner as the au­di­ence is mes­mer­ized by the works on dis­play.

The Fu­ture Gallery of Beijing To­day Art Mu­seum com­presses many pow­er­ful works into a sin­gle time and place. The im­mer­sive per­cep­tion pro­vided by the col­lec­tive works seems to take vis­i­tors on a trip through the black hole, guid­ing them to use ev­ery sense and imag­i­na­tive mol­e­cule to form their own un­der­stand­ing of the works.

“The name ‘.zip’ is not as se­ri­ous as it looks,” re­marks cu­ra­tor Wu Jue­hui. “It was in­spired by words I saw in a group chat on Wechat in 2014: ‘The suf­fix of art in crit­ics’ eyes is .txt; in rich peo­ple’s eyes is .jpg, but I think the suf­fix of art is still .exe.’ I agree a lot with that as­sess­ment and still think about it a lot. It re­flects some of the prob­lems in to­day’s art cir­cles. The ex­pan­sion of the uni­verse is like a con­tin­u­ous de­com­press­ing process. New for­mats emerge and old ones fade. While we are us­ing a for­mat, we are also self-for­mat­ting. In a large for­mat sys­tem, each per­son comes with his or her own for­mat. They may be .text, .jpg, .ppt, .exe or just a bug.”

Dur­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion, Gao Peng, di­rec­tor of Beijing To­day Art Mu­seum, granted an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view to China Pic­to­rial.

Why did you launch the project of the Fu­ture Gallery? What is the Fu­ture Gallery on earth? What do you want to con­vey through the project?

Gao Peng: Since I took of­fice as di­rec­tor of Beijing To­day Art Mu­seum in 2013, sev­eral ques­tions have been lin­ger­ing in my mind: What is the fu­ture of mu­seum? What will we dis­play tomorrow? What will the re­la­tion­ship be­tween pa­trons and the mu­seum be like in the fu­ture?

Based on th­ese re­flec­tions, we launched the “Fu­ture Gallery” pro­gram. Our Fu­ture Gallery is not a phys­i­cal en­tity, but an ex­per­i­men­tal project to pre­dict the land­scape for fu­ture devel­op­ment. It is a mu­seum model for the next few decades based on the imag­i­na­tion of a group of to­day’s art prac­ti­tion­ers. The col­lab­o­ra­tion of our mu­seum and artists, as well as their in­ter­ac­tion with the au­di­ence, presents an ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing an im­mer­sive experience, au­dio and vis­ual feast, artis­tic cross-me­dia in­ter­ac­tion and in­for­ma­tion processing, vir­tual and re­al­is­tic over­lap, hu­man-ma­chine in­ter­ac­tion and var­i­ous new me­dia art works. It bravely fore­sees a flow­ing and change­able fu­ture by the way of art.

It seems that many spec­ta­tors are more at­tracted to the fan­tas­tic and stun­ning ap­pear­ances than the works’ con­no­ta­tions. How do you in­spire peo­ple to look deeper at th­ese works?

Gao Peng: At any age, the core themes of art never changed too much: love, ha­tred, life, death, de­sire and our at­ti­tude to­wards the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment and so­cial re­la­tions. But as times change, the me­dia of artis­tic ex­pres­sion con­stantly evolve. When var­i­ous artis­tic me­dia are rel­a­tively new, spec­ta­tors will nat­u­rally be drawn to the form rather than core con­tents.

So it is an im­por­tant duty for mu­se­ums to help au­di­ence tell what is just a show and what is the ex­pres­sion of artists’ in­ner feel­ings. I be­lieve that af­ter see­ing many ex­hi­bi­tions, the spec­ta­tors’ taste grad­u­ally improves, thus fos­ter­ing in­de­pen­dent artis­tic judg­ment. We pre­pare a QR code for each work at this ex­hi­bi­tion—if they want, spec­ta­tors can scan the QR code to lis­ten to a demon­stra­tion about each work. Many vol­un­teers and staff of the mu­seum are al­ways on hand to ex­plain var­i­ous com­po­nents of the works to vis­i­tors and help them bet­ter un­der­stand and re­spect art.

What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Fu­ture Gallery project and other new me­dia ex­hi­bi­tions?

Gao Peng: We in­sist that the Fu­ture Gallery is not a multi-me­dia ex­hi­bi­tion but an ex­per­i­men­tal art project about the fu­ture, be­cause we don’t want to mis­lead our au­di­ence into think­ing it’s just a multi-me­dia show. Our project in­volved many artists, sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers work­ing to­gether to com­plete the works. This ex­hi­bi­tion has in­vited plen­ti­ful well-known artists from home and abroad. We hope the heavy-hit­ting artist ros­ter can make our Fu­ture Gallery a new field of art re­search and in­spire the au­di­ence to con­tem­plate cre­ativ­ity.

“Cre­ativ­ity” is un­known and “fu­ture” is also un­known. If we do not ad­mit th­ese ‘un­knowns’, where can cre­ative power come from? Many works in this ex­hi­bi­tion are bold and pi­o­neer­ing, even be­yond the un­der­stand­ing of art for some. We not only spent a lot of la­bor and fi­nan­cial re­sources, but also changed the over­all struc­ture of the mu­seum, in or­der to break tra­di­tional ideas about mu­se­ums. As long as cu­ra­tors and artists have good ideas, our mu­seum will sup­port them un­con­di­tion­ally. We hope that this project can guide the public out of tra­di­tion­ally com­fort­able aes­thetic experience and to face the bold and ex­per­i­men­tal art of fu­ture.

What is the sta­tus of the Fu­ture Gallery in an in­ter­na­tional con­text?

Gao Peng: In 2015, we in­vited Suzanne Anke, for­mer pres­i­dent of the New York School of Vis­ual Arts, to par­tic­i­pate in our first Fu­ture Gallery pro­gram. When she came to sup­port us, she was nearly eighty years old. Why was she so de­voted? Be­cause when she saw our pro­gram, she was very ex­cited. She said that even in New York, many art mu­se­ums did not dare to do some­thing like this. Many mu­se­ums are only will­ing to show a few artists who are very suc­cess­ful com­mer­cially, and th­ese mu­se­ums stay pru­dent in their em­brace of more cre­ative con­cepts. Su­sanne Anke val­ued the plas­tic­ity and cre­ativ­ity of our Fu­ture Gallery and did a lot of pro­mo­tion for us.

We also re­ceived a lot of pos­i­tive feed­back this year. “The fu­ture is un­known and never has a clear start,” says Philipp Ziegler, head of the cu­ra­to­rial de­part­ment of ZKM Cen­ter for Art and Me­dia Karl­sruhe in Ger­many. “When you take the world stage to speak out your in­de­pen­dent opin­ion about a com­mon con­fu­sion, you’re al­ready at the fore­front of the times. I feel very hon­ored to take part in this global cut­ting- edge dis­cus­sion with other art prac­ti­tion­ers of the young gen­er­a­tion.”

An­other World in My Dream by Claude Lévêque (France), red neon light, hazer, vari­able di­men­sions, 2017.

E-blood Bag by Wu Jue­hui (China), charg­ing equip­ment, vari­able di­men­sions, 2016.

.Bug by UFO Me­dia Lab & PINK MONEY (two Chi­nese art groups), pro­jec­tion map­ping, vari­able di­men­sions, 2017.

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