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Everyone is a Curator

[ 2007-07-18 13:57:53 | 作者Author: OUNING ]
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Everyone is a Curator
Introduction of Get It Louder 2007

Ou Ning

Get It Louder 2007, exhibition catalogue, published by Modern Media

Get it Louder is a project initiated by ourselves. In 2005, Jiang Jian, Qian Qian, Ji Ji and I came up with the idea of doing an exhibition to focus on the new generation of designers and artists. We looked around for sponsors and finally found Modern Media Group. Modern Media has since developed a unique media marketing method: it seeks to sell its advertisement spaces through exhibitions, rather than making money through selling artworks. This can be said to be the first of its kind in China's media industry. For the readers at the end of the distribution line, an exhibition not only provides a lot of reading material, it also offers a three-dimensional experience. Get it Louder can be regarded as a perfect example of media operations going three-dimensional; in particular, their financing and means of communication and promotion are hardly seen in the system of museums and biennials.

Get it Louder 2005 was first organized at OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shenzhen. From there, it went on tour to CITIC Square in Shanghai and the Xingfucun Art Center in Beijing. The exhibition in Shanghai got us particularly excited: the fact that the exhibition took place in a shopping mall allowed for an encounter with a huge number of unexpected visitors, people who you normally don't see in other art exhibitions. Impressed by this, we decided to choose four large-scale shopping malls in four Chinese cities as the venues for Get it Louder 2007.

In Guangzhou, we chose the Grandview Plaza in the Tianhe district. The Grandview Plaza is the largest shopping mall in Asia, with a daily visitor flow of 200 000 people; this number can reach 400 000 on weekends. In Shanghai, we chose the Daning Life Hub, which resembles a small-scale city, with many outdoor spaces. We will even use its parking lot. In Beijing, we chose the SOHO Shangdu, which is small compared with Guangzhou's Grandview Plaza, but the SOHO-Shangdu has helped us to create a lot of specialized spaces outdoors. We will also use its underground parking lot and some corridors. In Chengdu, we chose the Bailian Tianfu Shopping Mall, which is one of the busiest and most bustling commercial spaces in Chengdu. Basically, the exhibitions in these four cities will use the entire spaces of each mall, and not just parts of them. We have researched and investigated on sites several times, located all the available spaces and created a design model. It constitutes a great challenge for an exhibition to have the artworks and audiences side by side with commercial goods and shopping mall customers. However, what is interesting is blending the shopping experience with that of exhibition-viewing.

The Beijing-based architect Liang Jingyu has designed the architecture of the exhibitions of this year. The artworks will be displayed on different floors and in different spaces of the shopping malls. In addition, he has created several indexing and guiding systems to help the audiences find the works that they are interested in. This year, Get it Louder can be visited as if you were doing a Google search. The guide carries detailed information on participating artists. There is a map of the venue of each city and every map contains several indexing devices, for instance: nationality. Although the works by British artists may be arranged on different floors, they can be linked and indicated by a specific line, so as to help the audience locate the works easily. Moreover, the audience can look for works according to the type of works, or by alphabetical order of the artists' names, a bit like taking part in a treasure hunt.

Generated by a new series of economic movements, the shopping mall is a spatial form that has thrived in China since 1990s. The act of consumption taking place in this space is also the public life that we are the most familiar with today, and to some extent, it even constitutes a part of our collective memory. The idea behind holding an art exhibition within this kind of large-scale consumerist space, other than being an attempt to break away from the conventional exhibition model of museums and biennials, is particularly in the hope of getting rid of the idea of art as a sanctuary, to enable art to enter people's lives and to bring it closer to people. Perhaps allowing people to encounter art, to discover it by accident while they are taking part in leisure and consumer activities is a more effective way to get art into people's hearts than through rigid education.

Another characteristic of the Get it Louder '07 is that, other than the main exhibition venues in each of the four cities, we are also developing a form of satellite shows called "Homeshow", which are exhibitions and activities organized at private apartments or small-scale offices. Conventional exhibitions consist in bringing together audiences in a particular place within a particular time period. On the other hand, with "Homeshow", Get it Louder '07 intends to channel the audiences that the main exhibition venues bring together into different private spaces in different corners of the cities. Flexible, guerilla-like "Homeshows" plus a large number of small-scale events, such as lectures, symposia and public forums, organized before and after the main exhibition make it possible to extend the duration of the exhibition. By doing so, we also want to show that an exhibition is not necessarily a particular event that takes places only at a particular time in a particular place. Instead, an exhibition should be part of daily life, which can be easily found everywhere.

On March 29, we organized the first lecture of Get it Louder 2007 in Guangzhou, and invited the British artist Sebastien Noel to present his explorations in new media. On April 1, we invited the New York artist, architect and urban theorist Kyong Park to give a lecture at the School of Architecture of Qinghua University on the problem of the "Ford" city of Detroit becoming an empty shell. This example of Detroit is particularly instructive for the urbanization process in China, where every city is expanding to the detriment of the countryside. In Detroit, the fact that the Ford moved its factory to the suburbs resulted in the emptying of the inner city; the huge percentage of the population moving out of the inner city has caused many social problems. This lecture has shown a cultural relevance which we advocate in our curatorial practices.

In addition, we also developed a few collaborative projects. For instance, on April 8, we invited the British architect Celine Condorelli to China to conduct preliminary investigations and discussions with the Beijing architect Wang Hui, and following that, they worked on a project together for the exhibition. This kind of collaboration allows the exploration of cultural differences and the possibility of a cultural blending. We deliberately chose an architect like Wang Hui, because he is a pure product of the Chinese education system and has never studied abroad. Thus, the greater the differences between them, the more interesting the dialogues are.

This year, we also want to address the issue of national identity. Through thorough research on the history of art and design and a comparative study of several countries such as Great Britain, Japan and the Netherlands, our symposium will deal with how to create a new national identity in contemporary China, that is, a new 'Chineseness'. Given the fact that China's economy is still booming, its national strength is constantly growing and the Olympic Games will soon be held in Beijing, everyone has their eye on the ascending present-day China, therefore, the issue of "national identity" is important for both artists and the government. We hope to deepen the discussion on this issue through the platform of this symposium.

Led by a nine-person international curatorial team, Get It Louder '07 involves more than 150 artists from China and all over the world, and is supported by two international institutions: the British Council and the Japan Foundation. Impressed by the success of Get It Louder 2005, the British Council took the initiative to take part in the exhibition this year. Thus, the two countries that are particularly dynamic in creative industry are both involved in Get It Louder '07.

In China, these days, everyone is talking about creative industry; even the government is promoting it. However, most people only see the industrial value of creativity, but ignore its social value. Therefore, Get It Louder '07 would like to put particular emphasis on the social value of creativity. At present, China is still at the stage of a 'postfigurative' society. In other words, the older generations have the power in the society, and the younger generations have little chance to express themselves. Part of the purpose of Get It Louder is to provide the young generation with a channel to release their energy. Consequently, with the average age of the participating artists at around thirty, the exhibition also targets young audiences. From a sociological point of view, it helps to meet the psychological needs of young people as an underprivileged social group, and alleviate latent generational conflicts - this is its social value.

When speaking of creativity, our focus is always on art, design, cinema and culture. Actually, we should pay more attention to social innovation. For example, a young man with the pseudonym "Anzhu" has initiated a project entitled "1kg More" on the internet, by encouraging people who go on a trip to carry one more kilogram of stationary, books and periodicals to give to students in poor areas along the way. This highly creative project has encouraged many people to participate. It has actually mobilized people to take part in a philanthropic cause. People no longer do good deeds because of mobilization by the State, but of their own free will. This is remarkable progress for present-day Chinese society, and allows people to perceive the hope of a civil society. I think that if an exhibition wants to have cultural relevance, it should get involved in similar practices.

Get it Louder '07 includes ten keywords, which are neither the topical subjects of the exhibition nor the themes used to classify the exhibited works. Instead, they are a number of key points that I brought together from the thoughts and ideas expressed in the works after having visited many artists, as well as a few special projects that we curate. They are: Urban Strategy, New Materialism, Bioaestheitcs, Community Ties, E-topia, Guerilla Culture, Collective Memory, Perpetual Dream, Moving Soundscape and Homeshow.

"Urban Strategy" refers to the way in which we should deal with the reality of violent urbanization in present China. Although in the end we were unable to invite either Moscow's architect group Iced-Over Architects or New York artist Michael Rakowitz to take part in Get It Louder '07, I still want to talk about two of their works.

Iced-Over Architects has converted a suspended platform used to clean high-rise building walls into a "floating bed" for the homeless to sleep on. Suspended from large-scale modern apartment buildings, the homeless people can ask the apartment residents to use their toilets, water, electricity, etc., by simply knocking on their windows. This work has reversed the spatial structure of modern cities by turning the modern apartment building into an accessory for the supplies of homeless people. It can be regarded as a type of "urban strategy" for those who have no property, and as an embodiment of the vision of the extreme left by claiming the redistribution of social resources.

Michael Rakowitz has designed a plastic sleeping bag, and homeless people can fill the inner layer of sleeping bag with the hot air that comes out of apartment buildings into to keep warm. Furthermore, to help those who sleep in the open air hide from the police, he has created a tent in the form of a car cover as camouflage. This also reflects a survival strategy of poor populations living in the city.

Both of these works are showing concern about underprivileged groups in the city. Far from closing up the gap between rich and poor, the urbanization movement in China has further increased it. The Gini index of inequality between rich and poor is almost at its maximum. The French architect Benjamin Beller noticed the great number of "available spaces" on the back of large billboards in Chinese cities. Through simple constructions, he has turned this sort of space into unsophisticated dwellings, which combine multiple functions: they are still billboards when closed during the day; however, they become kitchens, bedrooms and balconies when you open them up in the evening. As the largest work in Get it Louder of this year, it intends to create more living spaces for homeless people.

"New Materialism" refers to finding a fresh angle to look at the material world from. The Amsterdam-based designer Wu Minglun has created a piece of clothing that can both be worn and put on a chair. Thus, a man can be turned into a chair, and vice versa. The interchangeability of men and things shows the rights of objects: the "rights of objects" should not be the rights of ownership of man of an object, but the rights that an object itself has. The carpet created by the Dutch artist Simon Heijdens, currently living in London, is in reality patterns corroded on the ground by using corrosive chemicals. He ingeniously uses the negative form of objects, instead of the objects themselves.

"Bioaesthetics" refers to a creative methodology which consists in looking for inspirations in plants, animals and nature to create artworks; for example: the Cow Benches designed by Julia Lohmann and the Tree House designed by Shi Chuan. "Community Ties" refers to a form of social organization which is totally different from the past. People are linked together through independent magazines and network communities, for example: the E-Magazine "After 17" created by Madi (Zhu Wei) and 223 (Lin Zhipeng)'s photo blog. "E-topia" refers to the new reality and worldview created by electronic technologies, for instance: the online spectacle recorded by Cao Fei in Second Life. "Guerilla Culture" refers to a new anarchic urban culture, for example: Troika's SMS Guerilla Projector occupies urban space by force by using electronic graffiti. "Collective Memory" refers to a search for collective unconsciousness starting from personal experience, for example: Cai Kai's brand "Lileiandhanmeimei", the "Lightening Babe" serial products created by Lulu (Li Xinlu) and the series of illustrations produced by Kodyopark (Ren Qianyi). "Perpetual Dream" refers to cultural conservation, diversified life and ideals that can go on to be developed, for example: "The China Shadow Project" by Wei Chao, Wu Yonghong and Chen Feibo, and the film "Peking Monster" by Peng Lei.

"Moving Soundscape" is a specially curated project which combines sound art and urban geographical research. We have invited the Underline Office and numerous Chinese sound artists to do research on the peripheral areas of each of the four cities within a distance of a 40-minute car-ride, to sample and analyze each city's architectural styles, functions and noise index, and create a new sound work based on these data, then install the work in a car. The audience will sit in the car and move around according to the itinerary defined by the artist. In this way, they can listen to the artist's sound work at the same time as receiving the visual impression of the cityscape.

As stated above, "Homeshow" refers to doing exhibitions in homes. Its biggest characteristic is that the exhibition is on your own initiative. If you have things to say or to show, then "Homeshow" is a good solution. It has no restrictions, and is low-budget, or even zero-budget. Normally an exhibition needs a catalogue, but with Homeshow, the catalogue can be edited in an extremely economical way, for instance: first printing the pages from a computer and then Xeroxing them to have a certain number of copies. The information of Homeshow can be spread orally, through websites, blogs or emails. You should not just invite your friends for the event, but should also appeal to a public audience through the internet, so as to break the limits of small circles and create a channel for discussion. In order to test the effect of Homeshow, we have carried out a lot of experiments, and have organized more than ten Homeshows in Lanzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Dalian, Chengdu, Shenyang, Hong Kong,etc.

In fact, Get it Louder is already a large platform, with all sorts of resources for us to use. Yet why do we still want to encourage "Homeshow"? We simply want to see what kind of exhibition can be made where there are few or even no resources at all. If we can still organize exhibitions without any resources or very few, then it shows clearly that the idea that "everyone is a curator" is not a dream.

May 31, 2007, Beijing
Translated from Chinese by Yu Hsiao Hwei, Paris
[最后修改由 OUNING, 于 2009-01-18 20:25:03]
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