Exhibition explores history of possible encounters in art
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Taiping Tianguo looks specifically at four Chinese artists forging their artisticpositions. In New York, the relationships they formed present just one set of possible encounters that can be multiplied to imagine similar but place-specific scenarios.Gathering together the strands of four famous Chinese artists, including the world-famous Ai Weiwei, Salt’s new exhibition “A History of Possible Encounters” is an attempt to think of the concrete or even tenuous links betweens the quartet during their time in New York 25 years ago.
Throughout the 20th century, artists traveled to cities in Western Europe and the United States to experience stimulating artistic communities and often a more liberal lifestyle.
Now, as new cultural hubs are established in the east and south, there are greater efforts to review how these moments impacted individual practices and the development of relative art discourses in different contexts.
Four Chinese artists
While Taiping Tianguo looks specifically at four Chinese artists forging their artistic positions while in New York, the relationships they formed present just one set of possible encounters that can be multiplied to imagine similar but very place-specific scenarios occurring across the globe.
Ai, Frog King Kwok, Tehching Hsieh and Martin Wong have come to prominence in different ways. While all of them are “Chinese,” they hail from different places, contexts, and lineages and are situated in wildly divergent art historical narratives and discursive matrices. Ai is from mainland China, Kwok from Hong Kong, Hsieh from Taiwan, and Wong from San Francisco: all arrived in New York in the late 1970s to the early 1980s. Ai, Kwok, and Wong returned to their hometowns in the early 1990s, while Hsieh continues to live in New York. Wong died in 1999. Between these four artists, certain connections are documented or remembered.
For instance, Hsieh appears in Ai’s photographs from this time; Kwok provided critical assistance for Hsieh for some of the latter’s legendary “One Year Performances;” and Kwok met Wong and Ai at the KWOK Gallery, the space he ran in Soho. For all four artists, New York in the 1980s and early 1990s represented a time-space that was filled with freedom and possibilities that incubated their artistic visions and imaginations.
Heavenly kingdom of eternal peace
Salt’s exhibition ventures to propose an alternative narrative to those that disregard these artists’ personal connections in favor of city, nation-specific or formalist histories. It suggests a casual community, a network of acquaintances, and an underground economy. By doing so, it hopes to contribu
te to a critical reading of this period – the first decade of contemporary Chinese art and the prelude to the era of globalized contemporary art.
“Taiping Tianguo” (Heavenly Kingdom of Eternal Peace) was the name of the domain in Southern China established by the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century.
Wong used the name as the inspiration for a painting, and it was in turn used as the title of his posthumous exhibition.
The present exhibition borrows it again as a metaphor for the New York of the 1980s and early 1990s, the time-space which was crucial to the lives and works of the four artists in this exhibition. Taiping Tianguo is co-organized by the curatorial initiative A Future Museum for China and Para Site, Hong Kong.