[Jul 12-14] Lost in the Labyrinth: Sound Art in China

Fri-Sun Jul 12-14, 1-7pm
Screening is 1.5 hrs loop projection
Admission: FREE
Reception for the Curator 7 – 9 pm July 12, 2013
Since its import into China, the evolution of and the practice of Sound Art, like the art of New Media, has been completely re-shaped by the political system, social structure, and market economy of contemporary China. Sound Art in China – as it’s been greatly affected by the local culture – has very little in common with its original reference in Western art history. Most Chinese practitioners in this field usually avoid classifying their creations as “Sound Art”, as it’s difficult to summarize the complexity of the media evolution in China with such a simple word. Curated by Xiaoying Juliette Yuan, Harvestworks presents artists who are among the most representative figures in the experimental music (i.e., Sound Art) field in contemporary China. This event is part of 2013 New York Electronic Art Festival.

[Jul 12-14] Lost in the Labyrinth: Sound Art in China

Produced and Curated by Xiaoying Juliette Yuan
Fri-Sun Jul 12-14, 1-7pm
Screening is 1.5 hrs loop projection
Admission: FREE
Reception for the Curator 7 – 9 pm July 12, 2013

Location:
Harvestworks – www.harvestworks.org
596 Broadway, #602 | New York, NY 10012 | Phone: 212-431-1130
Subway: F/M/D/B Broadway/Lafayette, R Prince, 6 Bleeker

china-yuanCurator’s Statement: Since its import into China, the evolution of and the practice of Sound Art, like the art of New Media, has been completely re-shaped by the political system, social structure, and market economy of contemporary China. Sound Art in China – as it’s been greatly affected by the local culture – has very little in common with its original reference in Western art history. Most Chinese practitioners in this field usually avoid classifying their creations as “Sound Art”, as it’s difficult to summarize the complexity of the media evolution in China with such a simple word.

The artists participating in the current exhibition are among the most representative figures in the experimental music (i.e., Sound Art) field in contemporary China. They live and work in Beijing or Shanghai, but originally come from different cities with diverse socio-educational backgrounds, which constitute the decisive factors that influence their sensibility and perception for sound and music, as well as for the current state of Chinese society that they are living in.

Shanghai artist YIN Yi and Beijing artist SHENG Jie (aka GogoJ) have both lived and worked in France, which endows their works with similar temperament: subtle with undertones of restrained violence. YIN Yi shot the video Three Minutes at a crossroad in Shanghai during the same moment when all of China mourned for three minutes in remembrance of the Great Sichuan Earthquake (May 12, 2008) victims, in order to memorialize the “21st deadliest earthquake of all time”, while SHENG Jie created the single-channel video Ruins Face with its mysterious and ghostly images, accompanied by the low frequency from her self-designed electronic violin, thus faithfully relating the absurd and violent behaviors from the privileged power stratum in China through the background story hidden behind the ruins. In Smoking, a 1 ½ minutes long shot of several young females smoking next to the same window in front of an unknown background, SHENG Jie tries to communicate to the audience her interpretation of the act of contemplation, which could create unexplainable visual delusions within different context in our daily lives. The work refers to the illusions that people might confront, or the self-identification that they keep seeking while striving to survive the situation projected in Ruins Face.

WEI Wei (aka VAVABOND) and LI Jianhong often collaborate to deliver live environmental improvisations. LI Jianhong, one of the pioneer figures in Chinese experimental music, never accepted to categorize himself as a Sound Artist. Three sound tracks from WEI Wei and LI Jianhong’s environmental improvisations are shown in the current exhibition. Although created with totally different media and methodologies, and recorded from different environments, these sound tracks seem to interpret both creators’ nostalgia for their hometown and culture in which they grew up, and their constant aspiration for peace, simplicity and authenticity as a life style.

The same pure aspiration can also be found in another artist and pioneer figure in experimental music in China, YAN Jun. Being extremely active as a creator, producer, and former music critic, YAN Jun, now only creates site-specific works at festivals or for exhibitions. He is one of the most audacious artists in the community. Yan Jun, known as a multi-creator, has experimented with most creative media and forms, including noise, electronic, field recording, environmental improvisation, live performance, and sound installation.

LIN Chi-Wei, as the only artist who refuses to create art using any sort of electronic device, may actually be the most authentic Sound Artist of the group. He is also a great scholar who has spent a considerable amount of time researching the history of Sound Art in the West. LIN Chi-Wei’s works focus on the interaction between the human body, machine, and sound elements; in particular the influence of body as the media to shape sound. He usually interprets his ideas about sound through performances that require participation of a large audience in order to create a spectacular collective creation effect. His works, very often interpreted as religious rituals, covered by mystery and surrealism, show the unconscious exploration into certain unknown spiritual realms.

Shanghai based artist Mai Mai appears frequently at various live-performances in recent years. The current exhibition selected the recorded live-performance, which consists of a pure exploration in sound aesthetics given by the artist and the Berlin based artist, Kai Fagaschinski at the Shanghai Rockbund Museum in 2013. Beyond the experimental music circle, Mai Mai is more known as a scriptwriter, film producer, and director whose works often vacillate between documentary and video art, with a narrative apparently much influenced by surrealism and lack of coherence, show images or scenes that are from time to time absurd or deeply philosophical. The voiceover and the music, usually the keys to understand these works, transmit with subtlety but precision the creator’s profound revelation and acerbic sneer at the disparate social phenomenon in contemporary China.

XU Wenkai (aka Aaajiao) is also one of the most influential emerging artists in the visual arts field in China. His creations focus on the alliance of art, science and technology; data as the critical element to re-structure contemporary human society is the main theme of his research. By collecting, retrieving, re-combining and re-shaping data, XU Wenkai is trying to deconstruct then re-establish contemporary human society, with humans themselves as the creators of this society with their understanding and attitude of life. How much could data, in combine with great innovation and rubbish by humans, contribute to the development of society? What role does it play in it? We would rather take the artist’s questions as an opportunity to reflect on our own life than only take them as a solution from the artist to shape data into a physical form.

Thanks to every sound artist’s constant effort and support, Sound Art continues developing in China while gaining attention from the international art world. Without any funding from the Chinese government or private foundations, most sound artists need to have a secondary job usually unrelated to music to survival, while giving all their leisure time to experimental music research and creation.

By setting up the current exhibition within 2013 NYEAF, I hope to provide more opportunities for my colleagues in the U.S. to approach the world of experimental artists, and to understand their way to live and creation in China. In my recent collaborations with the U.S., I discovered that the mainstream American art world was very often driven to focus on Chinese artists and works that had been officially approved by the art market or the conventional gallery and museum system, yet stayed unaware of the entire experimental art community lost in the labyrinth of contemporary art; a community which is extremely creative and vibrant in present day China. Unfortunately the small sound artist community with its meager resources, marginalized by the official Chinese contemporary art world, has limited access to gain the attention of leading Western art media.

Xiaoying Juliette YUAN 袁晓萦
Media Arts curator | Consultant

Works

YIN YI (Shanghai)
3 minutes. 2008-2011. Single-channel video (color, sound), 5 min 2 sec.
https://www.bmspace.org
https://soundcloud.com/yinyi

WEI Wei (Beijing)
Accelerate, in Hologram of Sea, album produced by free improvisation music label, China Free Improvisation
(C.F.I). Sound. 9 min 36 sec.
www.vavabond.com

SHENG Jie aka. GogoJ (Beijing) 
Smoking. 2013. Single-channel video, pal, color, mute, 1 min 30 sec.
Ruins Face. 2013. Single-channel video with electronic violin, pal, B/W, sound, 17 min 18 sec. http://shan-studio.com/

http://sgogoj.com/

LI Jianhong (Beijing)
qiú niú. 2012. Guitar noise improvisation, recorded from one of the artist’s live-performances. 2 min 41 sec.
Talks at the Pigsty, in the album Here Is It, 2012. Environmental improvisation. 5 min 41 sec.
http://lijianhong.com/

LIN Chih-Wei (Taipei)
Tape music – Social measurement through sound. 2007. Documentary based on a live-performance in Stockholm, Sweden. Color, sound. 5 min 12 sec.
http://www.linchiwei.com

LOU Nanli (Shanghai)
Sound of the City (2nd edition), 2011. Single-channel video with 5.1 electronic ambient music. Color, sound. 5 min 27 sec.

Mai Mai (Shanghai)
Live at RockBund Art Museum. A free improvisation duo by Mai Mai’s No-input mixer and Berlin based artist, Kai Fagaschinski’s Clarinet, recorded from the artists’ Live-performance at miji concert Shanghai. 2013.
14 min 39 sec.

YAN Jun (Beijing)
New York Sinking, a site-specific sound work. 2013. Environmental sound collected from Harvestworks’ exhibition space, and the artist’s flat in Beijing, feedback noise.
www.yanjun.org

XU Wenkai aka Aaajiao. (Shanghai)
Cloud.data. 2010. iPhone/iPad app, 58x29cm, acrylic iPad, sound.
http://www.eventstructure.com
Shanghai based artist, XU Wenkai aka Aaajiao’s interactive installation Cloud.data. 2010. iPhone/iPad app. 58x29cm, acrylic iPad, sound. Can be viewed in the New York Electronic Art Festival’s  WAVEFORMS 2013 exhibition curated by Carol Parkinson from June 15 – Sep. 2, 2013 in St. Cornelius Chapel on Governors Island, New York Harbor, New York, N.Y. 10004

Xiaoying Juliette YUAN

Independent curator | researcher in Media Arts, currently lives and works in New York City
In 2004, as one of the first curators in China she presented the concept re-defining architecture through digital art by organizing a three city (Shanghai, Chengdu, Kunming) conference tour entitled Digital Art and Architecture to interpret the relationship between digital art and contemporary architecture. In 2006, she was invited by the Ministry of Culture in China to curate the International Digital and Multimedia Arts exhibition PLAY(S) within the 3rd International Digital Art and Animation Festival. In 2008, she was appointed the Director for Exhibitor Relations for 2008 ShContemporary Art Fair in Shanghai, worked with the former director of Art Basel, Lorenzo Rudolf, and one of the top exhibition firms in the world, Bolognia Fiere. In 2009, she produced Uncertain Future, New Media Arts and Games, a conference series focusing on Media Arts’ development in China, where she collaborated with numerous art institutions and museums, presented more than 20 international experts and professionals doing research in cross-disciplinary fields. In 2011, in collaboration with Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts (Fudan University) and the Planetary Collegium from UK, she organized the Transcultural Tendencies | Transmedia Transactions International Conference on Media Arts Research. The conference regrouped 50 International experts in art, science and technology, therefore was considered the first worldwide discussion on this cutting edge topic in China. In 2012 she was appointed curator for two major projects within the 2012 Shanghai Biennial, Roy Ascott: From Cybernetics to the Syncretic Mind, and the Immersion | Art and Technology Workshop with the participation of seven top media artists from North America, Europe and Asia.

Xiaoying (Juliette) YUAN is also a dynamic writer having had a number of articles published on Media Arts for several known magazines throughout China and overseas. Since 2004, she has been collaborating with several international magazines in China as associate writer. In 2012, she published in Mandarin the “Future is Now: Art, Technology and Consciousness” based on the British Media Arts pioneer Roy Ascott’s life long writings, followed by “Context Providers: Conditions of Meaning in Media Arts” edited by Margot Lovejoy, Christiane Paul and Victoria Vesna. Recently she joined Roy Ascott to work as the Guest editor for the publication of a special issue for Technoetic Arts Journal. The proceeding was published by the Intellect. Ltd. in the UK in April 2013.

Xiaoying (Juliette) YUAN owns a Bachelor from French language Department of China Foreign Affairs University, a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Paris III (La Sorbonne Nouvelle), and is currently a PhD candidate for Art and Media at the Planetary Collegium under the University of Plymouth (UK).

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