UCCA DIRECTOR'S FOREWORD
In tandem with his first UCCA solo show, Wisdom of the Poor , leading Chinese artist Song Dong curates an exhibition for young artists Ma Qiusha and Wang Shang, his former students. As both curator and collaborating artist, Song Dong creates a stunning installation, similar to his "para-pavilion" at the 2011 Venice Biennale, as a framework for their art.
Using inexpensive, ubiquitous materials such as wooden planks scavenged from old furniture and panels of corrugated tile, Song Dong divides the Black Box & White Space into two "realms" representing the indoor and outdoor scenery of a Beijing courtyard. The only thing that links the two is a connecting door. In the interior space, Ma Qiusha explores themes of memory, personal identity and family dynamics with her video and installation work. Wang Shang's exterior space, designed after a setting in his novel, is filled with cameras, gemstones, wallpaper and other items symbolic of human anxiety in the age of anthropocene and reality of the natural world.
The stories of Ma Qiusha and Wang Shang, appropriately set in Song Dong's "crowded courtyard," offer us a new perspective on the relationships between past and present, teacher and pupil, friends and fellow artists.
- Jérôme Sans, UCCA Director
Half a Generation Away
In 1980, China's one-child policy went into effect. In 1982, Ma Qiusha was born. In 1984, Wang Shang was born. In 1989, the year I turned 23, I began teaching art to Ma Qiusha, age 7, and Wang Shang, age 5. In the 22 years since, our relationship has progressed through three stages: teacher/pupil, friends and colleagues/fellow artists. The teacher/pupil relationship was mutual: right from the start, we studied together and learned from each other. Our relationship as friends was wide-ranging: I formed a deep bond with both the kids and their families. Our relationship as colleagues was more individualistic: we followed our own artistic paths, yet kept up a meaningful mmunication.
During their university years, I had hoped to curate an exhibition for them, and in 2011 we finally got the chance. Ma Qiusha is 29 this year, Wang Shang is 27, and I am 45. We are holding three solo exhibitions at UCCA. Three separate solo exhibitions, or 1 collaborative exhibition. We all grew up in a similar environment, Beijing's hutongs . But an era of great changes has led us to very different lives. Different family environments made us different people, and gave us different futures. We share a special bond, and our lives will always be linked. In this exhibition, I have created a backdrop for their work. In real life, I was part of the backdrop of their lives. This is a very special moment in my artistic career, a moment I will never forget. Ma Qiusha and Wang Shang are still several years younger than China's "reform and opening."
- Song Dong
From No. 7 Nanlishilu Santiao to No. 1 Shouchangjie, then to No. 24A Meishuguan Dongjie My collected self-portraits span the years from childhood drawing classes to the Central Academy of Fine Arts High School. After entering university, I never did another self-portrait again.
No. 4 Tianqiaobeili A razor-in-the-mouth monologue about my childhood art experiences. At the end of the video, I remove the razor blade from my mouth. Though I love my mother deeply, that love is often fraught with pain.
No. 43 Pingshandao I remember my maternal grandfather as the only relative who didn't spoil me, an old man I sometimes quarreled with. Later, my grandma told me that he, like me, had been an only child. Grandpa was a strange bird. I remember his odd habit (a habit he took very seriously) of saving the stubble from his beard every time he shaved. He would save the stubble in little glass bottles, each carefully labeled with the year and kept under lock and key. This went on day after day, year after year, from 1984 to 2010. After he passed away last year, I rescued the 27 bottles, one for each year, from a pile of his things someone had thrown away. My grandpa's stubble collection is 27 years old, just two years younger than me.
No. 2 Hepingmenwai Xili Home has three windows, each facing a different direction. They are like three big LCD TVs, playing different programs every day. Through this window, I saw real tanks and troops. Through this window, I saw an exhibitionist loitering in a blind alley. Through this window, I saw a neighbor standing on his balcony, peeping down at me in the toilet. Through this window, I saw a mirror in the darkness.
Less than 50 cm above ground From time to time, the tail of a cat peeks out from a hole in a girl's skirt. The girl raises her skirt, teasing the invisible pet.
Tuofangying Nanlu The residue can never be eradicated. It is but a tiny drop, suspended in various liquids: soft, vital, sexual.
Liulichang West A pair of legs being dragged behind a moving vehicle. The feet are wearing ice skates. The pavement races underfoot, grinding against the blades of the skates. The blades grow shaper and sharper, until finally, they become knives. Real knives.
- Ma Qiusha
Sleuthing is the title of a chapter from my novel-inprogress. In this exhibition, I turn the space into a laboratory, which is one of the key locations in that fictional world. Now, allow me to pass the job of introducing this lab to one of the characters in the novel:
"Greetings, greetings everyone, and welcome to the opening of Laboratory No. 725! My identity code is 07X351, and I will be leading today's tour. It is my great honor to inform you that this is the first time Lab No. 725 has ever been opened to Homo sapiens. Truly, this is the only lab in the universe worthy of being called ‘the most legendary laboratory in the entire known universe.'
What makes this lab so magnificent, you ask? Well, for starters, it was established 1,201,521,672 years ago. Not on this particular site, of course. Our conceptions of space and time are less limited than your human minds can possibly...oh, never mind, you wouldn't be interested in that. What matters for you Earthlings is the fact that all of the plants on Earth were researched and developed right here, in this lab. Cr-a-zy, isn't it?
This lab is not only an R&D facility; it is also a living organism itself, a plant known as Lab No. 725.
The hexagonal object in the center of the lab is an energy generator. Not only does it power the R&D activities of this lab, it is also an organ vital to sustaining the life of this "plant," this lab-as-living-organism. Its mechanism is the same as the photosynthetic reaction center found in all plants.
Those things you see with glittering, pearly skin are new plant species under development, and the structures that look like cultivation beds are actually the plants' roots. They reach deep into the soil, absorbing lifesustaining minerals and nutrients. The future of these plants, of course, is also vital to the future of humanity.
The patterns you see covering the walls are the reproductive organs of Lab No. 725. The thing to keep in mind is that they – like all flowers – are duplicitous, dangerous hypocrites.
That about concludes my introduction. I hope you enjoy your visit to Lab No. 725. Please feel free to look around at your leisure, and member: you needn't fear being eaten alive here."
- Wang Shang