My Dear, You Shouldn’t Believe in Fairytales takes the construction of fairytales as a metaphor for the legitimization of narratives as a point of departure, and through a selection of works including Tejal Shah’s video installation at dOCUMENTA (13), Between the Waves; Erkka Nissinen’s 2011 Illy Prize winning Rigid Regime; and Chen Zhou’s new work, My Loving Artist - Yu Honglei, seeks to investigate the ideas of narrative, the body-subject and issues surrounding the enquiries into their (de)legitimization, (in)appropriateness and un/interchangeability.
“Narration is the quintessential form of customary knowledge.” Consider popular fairy tales as shards of larger narratives we live in. We always remember the third little pig and we are always satisfied with the ‘happily ever after’ ending when the Big Bad Wolf is boiled to death by the pigs who cleverly slam the lid of the pot. If interested, one can look to the Cannes Lion Award winning advertisement Three Little Pigs, which playfully twists one’s usual train of thought – yes, the pigs are trying to protect themselves, but does that justify the killing of an intruder? Unconsciously willing it, or even consciously, we tend to construct narratives that contain little or no disjunction, but seamlessly weaved scenarios. Folktales and fables are not only seemingly innocent bedside stories; they are supported by sets of pragmatic rules that constitute the society’s own making of knowledge and history – a superstructure that we do not outgrow.
Jean-François Lyotard’s questioning of legitimatized narratives in his 1979 book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge offers one of the impulses for the exploration this exhibition sets forth. An advanced capitalist society is delineated by narratives that are legitimized by – in lieu of principle-concerning philosophies – practical values. Knowledge is now for the most part based on efficiency and utility: how minimal input can maximize desired outcomes; how history can be useful. A crisis in this system of legitimization is the tendency toward a homogenization of opinion – and with ‘synchronization’ becoming a goal that we wake up to every day in this age of instantaneous communication technologies, a perpetuating crisis. Paralogy, the individualistic search for instabilities and anomalies in current narrating theories, is what Lyotard deems the solution and what this exhibition hopes to enquire into.
The works assembled invite heuristic enquiries in larger contexts of the art historical discourse, the a/cultural debate, and the construct of individuality under the idea of a global modernity. Charles Taylor suggests in Two theories of Modernity that culture is only one of the right narratives. With that assumption, how can we make the leap of projecting ourselves into the Other? How can we define, categorize and discuss art in the now ever more global context of a mélange of cultures? Who is going to decide what the story is, and why is a decision even needed when culture and knowledge production is under constant mutation? Is hybridity (the one concept so often cited today) then the explanation, the answer, or merely another idea to hold on to when we are free falling in pluralism or, if interchangeable, nihilism? Could delegitimization or de-conditioning be the step toward modern individualism? There is more to this endless chain of questions which viewers should address to themselves.
Instead of the disappointment that follows when we are told not to believe in fairytales growing up, My Dear, You Shouldn’t believe in Fairytales proposes to awaken a joy in an exploration of the infinite possibilities beyond our surrounding narrations of culture, history and customary knowledge.
About the Artists
Tejal Shah (b. 1979) is based in Bombay. She graduated from RMIT with a BFA in photography in 2000. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, Montreal (2011), and Barbra Gross Galerie, Munich (2011), where Shah was interviewed by Hans Ulrich-Obrist, and group presentations at Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2010), the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2007), and Tate Modern, London (2006). In 2012, Shah participated in dOCUMENTA (13), where she exhibited Between the Waves.
Erkka Nissinen (b. 1975) is based in Hong Kong, Amsterdam, and Helsinki. He earned his MFA at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki (2001). Recent exhibitions include solo shows at Ellen De Bruijne Project Space, Amsterdam (2012), and 1646, Den Haag (2009), and group presentations at the Rotterdam Film Festival (2012, 2013), De Appel, Amsterdam (2010), and Para/Site, Hong Kong (2005). Nissinen won the prestigious Illy Prize at Art Rotterdam in 2012.
Chen Zhou (b. 1987) is based in Beijing and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts with a BFA in Digital Media in 2009. In 2012, he was a finalist for the Focus on Talents project at the Today Art Museum. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at SH Contemporary, Shanghai (2012), and Platform China Contemporary Art, Beijing (2009), and group presentations at UCCA, Beijing (2012), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston (2012), Renia Sofia Museum, Madrid (2011), and Today Art Museum, Beijing (2011, 2012).