Event  |  Reviews  |  Comments
Shanghai Traces 2010119121916, 2010 Algorithmicly Generated Digital Print 88.89 Cm X 66.67 Cm © Ben Houge
Curated by: Rebecca Catching

50 Moganshan Lu
Bldg, 4A, Room 2007
2000 Shanghai
January 23rd, 2010 - March 13th, 2010

+86 139 1637 3474
site-specific, sound, video, mixed-media, digital, installation, performance, sculpture




We’ve all seen it – the warped bamboo scaffolding, the torn up streets, the walls dripping with fresh paint, the city is getting a face lift in time for the World Expo, similar to the process which befell Beijing in advance of the Olympics.

But what lies underneath that glossy white paint? What are we covering up and why? Who decides what will be the new face of Shanghai? In January OV Gallery will explore this theme in a group show of Chinese and foreign artists. “Make-over” features a number newly-commissioned works, including cutting-edge installation, video and performance works along with works which will take place/be displayed in public spaces.


Curator: Rebecca Catching, art critic and director of OV Gallery

Venue: OV Gallery, 19 C, Shaoxing Lu, by Shanxi Nan Lu

Dates: January 23-March 13

Mediums: performance, sound, video, sculpture, installation, painting, mixed media, digital and site specific works

Participating artists: Jutta Friedrichs, Chen Hanfeng, Ben Houge, Jiang Hongqing, Ji Wenyu, Jin Feng, Ning Zuohong, Maya Kramer, Qiu Anxiong, Christina Shmigel, Song Tao, Su Chang and Wu Ding.

Press Contact:

Rebecca Catching

139 1637 3474

Proposals for “Make-Over”

OV Gallery

Song Tao (photo installation): Song Tao and Ji Weiyu collectively known as the irreverent Bird Head collective will take photos of street signs and store signs, cut up the individual characters and arrange them into a Tang dynasty poem. Bird Head’s work reverses the Expo paradigm of turning old into new, By turning new (Chinese vernacular typography) into old, reminding us not to loose sight of ourselves in this mad dash for the future.

Christina Shmigel (installation: cardboard, wood, glass): Shmigel, an American artist based in Shanghai, has proposed a series of glass vitrines made out of mahogany and yellow velvet. Inside the vitrines are paper maquettes of unremarkable fragments of Shanghai architecture – those small little huts which sell mobile phone numbers and the like. In this work Shmigel is questioning the idea of who decides what is fit for public consumption – who decides what kind of face Shanghai will show to the world.

Ji Wenyu (installation: xuan paper and acrylic paint) – Ji Wenyu will take a selection of about 60 slogans that have fallen in and out of vogue over the years ever since liberation. He will paint these slogans on traditional Chinese paper during the exhibition opening. His work looks at the idea of Chinese history as a calendar where one flips the pages and where one idea is quickly replaced by another. His work conveys history as a series of layers of ideology and reflects the constant cycles of rebirth and reinvention, which characterize modern China.

Chen Hangfeng (installation: bubble machine, rubble, chicken wire): Chen Hangfeng will bring some levity to the gallery space with an installation which involves a bubble-making machine surrounded by rubble. The bubble-making machine will be enclosed in a chicken-wire cage. As the bubbles emerge, they will hit the walls of the cage and burst. The work uses humor to create a tension between ideals and realities. The bubble has the intriguing property of reflecting our world in a small round idealized shape but also conveys a sense of speculation, fragility and emptiness.

(Lao) Jin Feng (installation and prints): Jin Feng (known for his often incendiary performance pieces) will create his own Expo renovations inside OV – building a wall out of drywall. On the wall he will carve out fake headlines garnered from the internet. He will then produce a print of the work directly from the wall. It’s a piece that explores the nature of reality and the architecture of truth by exposing the phenomenon whereby journalists who are too busy/lazy to go out and interview people to write real stories write completely fabricate articles. There is even a website in China where people can visit to guess which headlines are fake and which are real.

R. Mutt / Er Dan/ Ning Zuohong (installation projector, plastic bags, goldfish): R. Mutt, Shanghai’s conceptual joker artist – proposes an installation which involves a series of goldfish tied in plastic bags hanging from the ceiling in front of a wall. On the wall is projected an image of a blue sky with white fluffy clouds. Here we have the goldfish in an artificial environment enjoying the illusion of an idyllic landscape. It’s a work, which delves into the idea of alienation, dreams and our perception of reality.

Su Chang (photo and installation, cake): a young, Shanghai-based artist, Su Chang takes a celebratory mood with his piece which involves a cake covered with fluffy white frosting which spells out this optimistic slogan “The Future Will Be More Beautiful.” The work will gradually degrade throughout the course of the exhibition will be captured through time-lapse photography.

This piece explores the genuine excitement of the Expo – the celebratory mood – the spectacle of the Expo – and the temporary fleeting nature of this particular celebration.

Ben Houge and Jutta Friedrichs (installation: resin, household objects; video): when the Expo arrives, many of the city’s itinerant peddlers will be forced to give up their trade and take their hawking to the city limits. Friedrichs will create a sculpture where all of the household products and things normally sold by vendors are encapsulated in a block of resin. Out of the top of the block of resin will grow a fake plant. The idea is that these artifacts are frozen like fossils. The fake plant represents something idyllic, which grows out of the remnants of the past – something idyllic and fake.

Houge will create a complementary digital video work of falling items (similar to the ones in the resin) that is regulated by an algorithm. The piece will also contain a small book documenting the lives of the vendors and the impact the Expo will have on their lives.

Maya Kramer: (installation: stereoscope, tiles, maps, metal pipe): Kramer will produce a number of art deco tiles (like the old ones we see in the lobbies of French apartment buildings in Shanghai) that are laid out on the floors and joined to a Stereoscope (the binoculars you see at tourist attractions). Through the viewfinder viewers will be able to see images of past World’s Fair sites. The work links up the Expos of the past and future and asks the question of what happens after the party is over?

Jiang Hongqing (installation: cardboard house; documentary video). The artist will make a video documentary of residents who were evicted from Expo territory and their experiences. The video will be shown in conjunction with a small house similar to the kinds of houses which are burned at Chinese funerals along with “ghost money” to honor the ancestors. The project conjures up the idea of the transience of life in China and how time quickly erases events which may seem momentous and all consuming at the time.


Wu Ding (Video Piece): This video work involves a typical white collar man going to work, when all of a sudden he feels quite ill. He stumbles to the bathroom and begins to throw up into the toilet.

The next scene features the man in an operation room having replicas of buildings excised from his stomach. They are taken out and replaced with bright new clean replicas.

The third scene involves a group of people in a parking lot looking at a parked truck, which contains a large white box. They try to get a glimpse of what is inside but try as they might, they can’t seem to find out what it is.

Here Wu is exploring the idea of image, how our obsession with our own image can cause a certain kind of unexpected psychological pain and malaise. The third scene deals more with the idea of waiting, surprise and anticipation. What is behind the barriers which line the Bund? What does the Expo have in store for us?

Qiu Anxiong (performance/video/photos): Qiu will create some surprises of his own. His performance work involves lighting off a smoke signal in front of an apartment building. The idea was based on the concept of petitioners in China – those who seek help in dealing with various plights – such as fighting against land developers who don’t fulfill their promises. The smoke signal acts as a kind of plea for help (like those often used in emergency situations to attract rescuers) but also act as a smoke screen essentially obscuring the problem.