UCCA DIRECTOR'S FOREWORD
Walead Beshty's UCCA solo exhibition Securities and Exchanges marks the first time that
this leading young Los Angeles-based artist has exhibited his work in China.
Beshty began exploring the concept of "material transformation" after he inadvertently passed some undeveloped film through an airport x-ray machine. When he developed the film, he discovered striking colors and patterns that had nothing to do with his original intentions as a photographer. Since then, Beshty has been creating artwork designed to interact with as many people as possible on its journey from studio to gallery, and to accumulate evidence of these interactions every step of the way.
All of the objects you see in this room have undergone, or are currently undergoing, a process of transformation: the glass floor cracks beneath the footsteps of each new visitor;copper cubes and tablets bear the fingerprints of exhibition handlers; mirrored and glass boxes, transported via FedEx to Beijing, have splintered during shipping and handling.Even the images on the walls represent a kind of metamorphosis: the black and white"transparencies" began as film passed through an x-ray machine, while the colour images are "replicas" of Beshty's past works rendered by a Chinese production studio.
The mere act of touching, transporting, installing or even enjoying these works exacts a visible toll on them, but the artist does not consider this to be damage; rather, it is only by interacting with and transforming these objects that they become art. By leaving our marks on Beshty's works, wittingly or unwittingly, we become active participants in the creation of his art.
- Jérôme Sans, UCCA Director.
Walead Beshty (b. 1976, London) received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Bard College in1999 and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University in 2002. He has held numerous solo exhibitions worldwide, most recently at the Malmo Konsthall in Sweden (2011), Regen Projects in Los Angeles(2011), Wallspace in New York (2010), Galerie Rodolphe Janssen in Brussels (2008) and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2006). Walead Beshty currently lives and works in Los Angeles.
On the role of the artist:
[...] Other than [the fact that] an artist makes art , [...]the artist's role is just to be part of the conversationof art . [...] Art is a theoretical discussion about how aesthetics can work, which is enacted through aesthetics.
On coming to China for this exhibition:
[...][I'm thinking about] what it means to have a show[...][in a place where] art is organized in a different way than I'm used to, and I feel outside out of it [...] It's also incredible [because] people who I wouldn't be able to speak with directly will be in direct contact with my work [...] Morebroadly, the U.S. and China are two countries that are very conscious of each other and are
completely intertwined, yet different. They need each other, but are also antagonistic to one another. They pick little fights but are never fully diametrically opposed. It brings me back to the idea of exchange and trying to make sure you're protected while exchanging with an individual,which is the same on the level of a nation.
It's funny [...] how I feel at home in airports [...]You always know that the airport will be familiar wherever you go; it's always structured in the same way. I remember being so fascinated by theBeijing airport, because it's just about the biggest
thing I've ever seen. It's amazing...it's a city.Airport travel is this artificial connective place that is its own territory [...] [O]nce you enter, you could be anywhere [...] [E]verything is standardized,because the systems need to be fully compatible with all the places it links.
On his artwork:
The work is a kind of limit in itself. It's not "anything goes." If someone picks up one of the FedEx works in the gallery and throws it out of the window, this is not part of the work. If the roof of the museum falls in, this is not the work. It may change the work, and if either of these events happened often,I would need to adapt, but it is not part of the work as it is. It's a controlled process in the sense that there's a set of parameters [...] The thing is, in art, there is more flexibility to define these parameters,to rethink them. That's why I like it. We often forget that [...] they are simply rules, arbitrary parameters that we are free to accept or reject. They can always be modified.
Excerpted from Jérôme Sans interview with Walead Beshty at the artist's studio in Los Angeles,California, on August 18, 2011.