I attended the exhibition Chinese Summer at the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo last Sunday. The title is quite misleading as the exhibition is not at all about the summer in China. Chinese Summer is used as a metaphor for a nation which has seen tremendous growth in its art industry over the past two decades. Beautiful works, some of them made a deeper impression than others.
Have you ever waited for someone without making an appointment in advance? How long are you willing to wait for the person to turn up, just as a pure coincidence? Not three hours and fifty-one minutes surely? Like most reasonable people who live a fairly busy life nowadays, I will not. In Our fast-paced world, waiting hours for someone you have no idea whether this person will actually turn up, it sounds ridiculous, does it not? But he did, Pak Sheung Chuen, the Chinese artist, in one of his experiments. His friend, having no idea that he was being waited, did appear at the underground station in Hong Kong, three hours and fifty-one minutes after the artist started his project. The reunion must be like a scene taken from a film. Quite a drama.
I did have some similar experiences when I was young. I had been waiting for someone for a couple of hours (or at least close to that) with the faint hope that this person might turn up (in a miraculous way) though I was well aware that there was only a slim chance of it happening. An overwhelming longing to see this person overrode all the reasonable thinking. On that autumn evening, chilly and windy, I was standing in a corner just outside the apartment building, with my eyes fixed on one of the windows on the fifth floor. I was 15, overly sentimental. Oh no, I was not waiting for a celebrity.
Colosseum by Huang Yong Ping, presents the almost 2000 years old amphitheatre Colosseum, which is one of the foremost symbols of Roman Empire. The sculpture is made of clay, an ancient construction material with a long tradition within Chinese art. The building is presented with overgrown plants symbolising an abandoned historical construction that has been taken over by nature. The work is considered to be a powerful reminder of the fragility of power, the fall of empires and the abiding interplay between nature and civilisation.
Love it, Bite it! by Liu Mei is a model of city with buildings made of tanned cowhide and pigskin, which are the same materials used to make rawhide chews for dogs. The 25 buildings in exhibition have easily recognisable structures. Among them, Tate Modern and the Pentagon. What is common for these buildings is that they all symbolize power. The work is interpreted as a satirical remark on human´s craving for power, which can be compared to animals´s relentless pursuit of food.
China 1946-1949, Battle in Shanghai by Zhou Zixi shows one of the numerous construction sites which have dominated the urban landscape in Shanghai for the past three decades. The painting shows that a building site is invaded by soldiers. It is interpreted as a metaphor for the contemporary “battle” in the sense that the traditional small houses are being demolished and replaced by high-rise buildings, and it also raises questions about the influence from the western capitalism on the country, which is governed by the communist party of China.
N Kilometers towards the West by Zhang Ding is an audible sculpture formed as a gigantic ball, and the surface is covered with woolen material. The sounds recorded are from the city Linxia which is located in the Gansu province. The city is known as China´s “little Mecca” due to its large Muslim population. The 16 tracks were recorded in various places of the city at different times during the day. Among the sounds, the calls from prayers in a mosque can be heard. The sculpture provides an greater insight into a lesser-known part of the Chinese society, and adds a new dimension to the understanding of the country and people.
I have presented a selection of artworks from the exhibition, and hope you enjoyed it.