San Francisco-based curator Hou Hanru's Everyday Miracles, in what has become an extended tour, began in 2007 as an exhibition of four contemporary women artists of varying ages in the Chinese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Two years later, Everyday Miracles lives on as Everyday Miracles (Extended) at SFAI's Walter and McBean Galleries and Disney Hall's REDCAT Gallery in three phases this fall and winter.
Phase 1, which opened at SFAI on October 1, presents the work of Shilpa Gupta from India, Kan Xuan from China, and Minouk Lim and Jewyo Rhii from Korea. Extended to include broader Asia and to be presented in American West Coast institutions, the three phases of Everyday Miracles (Extended) maintain the initial pretense that Asian women artists, “have struggled to express their independent voices against the uniformity imposed by the established system—the market, the media and the institution, etc,” as Hou writes in his curatorial statement.
Keeping in the spirit of biennials' overuse of video, Phase 1 is composed exclusively of video works, save Jewyo Rhii's installation Ten Years, Please (1996-2007) taking up the entire upper floor, and Shilpa Gupta's In Our Times (2008) animated microphone sound sculpture in its own small room on the bottom. The video works, presented on monitors, as projections, and in altered digital picture frames, all play at once. None are rigged with headphones. Usually such gambits end in a clusterfuck cacophony of competing noise, but the simultaneously looping videos produce a room of gently mingling sounds. Through careful planning and speaker placement, each work becomes distinctly engaging and surprisingly audible when regarded from a reasonable range.
Located at the heart of the main gallery are four works by Kan Xuan that in themselves illuminate the central exhibition theme of subjectivity. 100 Times (2003) is projected in the bottom corner of one gallery wall (the action of which is also cornered), thereby visually creating an impossible architectural situation. As seemingly similar ceramic vessels are dropped to the floor one at a time, each gives off a distinct tone depending on the amount of glaze applied to it, thereby audibly asserting in its final moment of destruction its individuality. On an adjacent wall, Kan's Object (2003) is a large projection that contrasts with 100 Times in size as well as in accompanying audio. While the cups continue to break, the whisper narration of Object divulges: “coffee is black; salt is white; oil is gray; shampoo is gray; honey is black; wine is black; ash is black; sweets are gray; sweets are white; sweets are black; milk is grey...” Shot through a transparent container of water, the black and white video depicts the named materials as they are dropped, squeezed, or poured into the water. What must be red wine billows in black clouds, toothpaste dives and floats in long tubular forms, oil streams into shapes reminiscent of magnified amoebas. Whispered like a secret, the narration explicates as it denies a part of the truth of the material; to divulge the fact that the streaming material is honey immediately conjures shades of gold, meanwhile the truth of the image, not life, is stated.
- Joanna Szupinska
Images courtesy the artists and the Walter and McBean Gallery: Chen Hui-chiao, Here and Now: Winter, 200. Double bed, table-tennis balls, and beads. Courtesy of the artist. Kan Xuan, Island (2 Yuan/1 Pound/1 Euro/1 Dollar) (2007-08)
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