Boomerang: OCAT Biennale 2021
2021.12.19 - 2022.5.22
OCAT Shenzhen, OCT Art & Design Gallery, OCT Ecological Square
Chief Curator: Feng Boyi
The year 2020 marks a point in time when the world is going through dramatic change. The consequences of the epidemic are still uncertain and difficult to escape. Nonetheless, art must continue. Re-affirming our existence and seeking the way into the future are issues that we face and need to address. The future exists in the unfolding of reality and reality exists in the imagination of the future. The shift between reality and future is the key to contemporary artistic practice.
Boomerang was first invented by aboriginal Australian peoples as a hunting tool, which has now become a sport. When the boomerang is thrown, it returns to the starting point; the harder it is thrown, the faster it flies back. The use of boomerang and its trajectory in the title of the Biennale not only suggests the situation in which the global and the local influence and control each other, but also symbolically refers to the epistemological worship of the infinite capacity of the human subject, as well as the forces and counterforces of the overexploitation of natural resources, which can even lead to a counterproductive result.
The theme, framework, and curatorial approach of the exhibition were proposed by the chief curator. Eleven co-curators are invited to propose and realize ten curatorial proposals according to the exhibition venues. The "combinative" and "equal" mechanism formed by this temporary curatorial group breaks the monotonic model of previous periodic exhibitions. It is an attempt to democratize curatorship by decentralizing curating in a multifaceted and multi-touch manner.
The curations in the indoor spaces of OCAT Shenzhen and OCT Art & Design Gallery present the experimental and exploratory nature of the exhibited works; while in the outdoor OCT Ecological Square, the interactive and participatory elements of public art enable close participation and tangible experiences of local residents. Comprised of nearly one hundred multimedia works by over ninety artists, as well as forums and workshops, the Biennale demonstrates a multidimensional landscape of the contemporary art ecology with a forward-looking perspective on the future, responding to the problem it raises.
Artists and curators should not simply show off or sell artistic concepts, nor should they cater to the clamor of the art market; they need to be sensitive to the problems that exist as a result of the changing times and society. We hope the endeavor of the exhibition would serve as a reminder and an alarm that help to form a collective social force to support the recovery after the epidemic. This is important in the context of contemporary art—to awaken our responsibility to society by means of artistic transformation, to inspire people to realize visions or revise current ills, and to engage people in building the present and the future with confidence as much as we can.
Attention! The Show Goes On
Curator: Miao Zijin
Artists: aaajiao, Guo Cheng, Lin Aojie, Liu Xinyi, Slime Engine (33EMYBW, Cai Jian, Fang Yang, Feng Zhixuan, Li Hanwei, Liu Shuzhen, Shan Liang, Wang Ziquan), Frank Wang Yefeng
In the Age of Attention Economy
To Look is to Labor
I Want You for voluntarily invisible digital labor
On the seemingly free Social Media
We are the Product
User-generated-content updates one’s performative profile
Likes replace Votes
It’s easier to make decisions via user-friendly interfaces
We are trapped in a 24/7 data tracking society
Take Care of your Emotion & Information
They are Banal & Ubiquitous
Help yourself to alternative identities
Play around with them
Resistance：An Experiment in Speed
Curator: Zhong Gang
Artists: Feng Li, Hu Jieming, Li Bingyuan, Wang Luyan
Technological revolution has accelerated the reduction of inter-personal space. A new force has risen to master and controlled everything. The value of work has become increasingly dependent on contending for and developing “autonomous” space, without which, we could lose everything. Particularly in Pearl River Delta, set against the backdrop of Accelerationism, rounds after rounds of speed chasing, both our body and mind have been inevitably drawn into a tiresome inertia, storming us, even governing us.
How could we strive for more autonomy in a wane-and-wax situation like this? And how do we restructure and rebuild the relationship between individuals and the world? Resistance: An Experiment in Speed was proposed and put into practice in the context of these questions. The exhibition is not only a description of the present social reality and contemporary circumstances, but also acts as an intervention or a game, guiding us through the dense forest and the forking paths, lightly but firmly.
Curators: Dong Jing, Zhou Yi
Artists: Duan Jianyu, Ge Yulu, Jin Ningining, Li Weiyi, Double Fly Art Center, Tala Madani, Yao Qingmei, Zhang Miao
Comedy, a dramatic genre, covers a great variety of types: satire, absurdity, physical, romantic, situational, sitcom, screwball, black, deadpan, erotica, roasting, burlesque, travesty, farce, slapstick, etc. As to its style, it can be highbrow, or low, or silly, playful, witty, cheerful, ironic, self-deprecating, edgy, parodic, nonsensical, camp, whimsy, dark, fun poking, taunting, dry and prankish.
Our age is filled with comic elements. A comedy may crop a story by removing its complexity and background as a narrative and leaving what makes one laugh only. Such rushes of fragmented information force us to re-organize the logic in mind before being able to react. In this sense, the form of comedy actually makes us think as hard as we can in a flash of time.
We have evolved from being the consumer of entities to the consumer of signs, but neither way can lead us to real stuff. As algorithm confines what we see, an invisible force begins to define us as individuals, depriving us of the right to choose. Amid the absolute spree of fashion and art, ideologies are replaced by an aesthetic culture, where trendy opinions and conformity always win. Comedic treatment at the moment helps to maintain sober, and proactively express dissatisfaction or rejection. Art, the most serious means of expression in the contemporary world, is taking an increasing initiative in marrying its own performative feature with the theatricality (interaction), that underlying the comedic tradition, and elevating it to be the most prominent form of artistic expression of our time.
Curator: Liya Xinyi Han
Artists: Fan Xi, Hu Wei, Homestead of Li's Family (Li Liao), Li Tingwei, Liu Xin & Lucia Monge, Vivian Vivian Xiaoshi Qin & Hu Yang, Shao Chun, Tan Yingjie, Zhang Wenxin, Zhu Yingying
The exhibition draws inspiration from the landmark statue depicting Nüwa meanding the sky built in 1986 in Shenzhen. The creation of this statue is to commemorate the commencement of the democratization system of Shekou Industrial Zone and highlights the spiritual power and strength of the worker community of Shekou as "Achieve the Impossible". Its soft figure and adamant facial expression have become the collective memory and material heritage of local citizens. This statue also represents the starting point for the formation of collective identity and cultural recognition in the Shenzhen area, attracting generations of immigrants.
The statue of Nüwa—an mythical image standing silently in the coastal area has gradually become the "amber" witnessing the amazing development of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Her existence has become the spatial parameter of urban construction in Shenzhen for more than 30 years. She has also "protected" the land under the worship of residents. This exhibition takes the statue as a vivid slice from the thread that stretches through the ancient and modern times, and tries to rewrite the contemporary Nüwa myth from a feminist perspective by exploring the identity, history, and myths of Nüwa. 10 groups of artists are invited to put forward their questions and responses regarding different parts of the statue. All could be traced back to the most basic philosophical query about Nüwa: Who is Nüwa? Where does she come from? Where will she go?
Curator: Yan Jun
Artists: Jun-y Ciao, Sun Yizhou & Zheng Wei, Xiang, Ake, Pan Chennong, Cheng Biqing
This section is especially for music and performance art, and all works will be live.
The term “slowcore" was borrowed from a music genre of 90s. It has the latter half of “hardcore” hopefully to characterize our collection as “slow, ambiguous but staunch”. And it also strikes a claim for delicate mobility in our world that resembles an assembly line incessantly humming clear and intense meanings.
From the curtain up of the Biennale on December 12th, 2021 to its fall on May 22nd, 2022, six groups of artists will take turns to reside and work in OCAT Residency A and B over various spans of time, with workshops, rehearsals open to the public or non-public, ad hoc concerts and performances, and perhaps alternative ilks of activity to come, where locals and guest artists will be invited to work and play with us. Public education programs and records release projects are on the way, in addition.
Jun-y Chao (December 12-31, 2021)
Sun Yizhou & Zheng Wei (January 1-31, 2022)
Xiang (February 1-28, 2022)
Ake (March 1-31, 2022)
Pan Chennong (April 1-30, 2022)
Cheng Biqing (May 1-22, 2022)
Curator: Yang Zi
Artists: Lei Lei, Li Zhanyang, Liu Weijian, SANS, Wang Wei, Wu Chen, Wu Wei, Yu Ji, Yang Fudong, Yang Maoyuan, Zhang Langlang, Zhang Xiao
Zhuangshi, a magazine founded in 1958, was popular at a time when aesthetics was sparse. It represented the aesthetic interest of the people after the "Double Hundred Policy"—one that arose from the resurgence of saturated practical aesthetics in China while impacted by foreign cultures such as the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.
The exhibition of the magazine’s first twelve issues is inspired by its sweet and sour aesthetic quality. Its aesthetics exhibited auspiciousness and hope while seeming less concerned with intervening radicalism throughout the world. It aimed to dive into people’s lives without acting as an arbiter of taste, high or low; it is honest and aspires for a good life. Its appearances catered to people's expectations, with the eagerness to embellish the world's anxieties. Pretenses often appear too deliberate and skillful even used as a cover-up, like irony—the infinite cycles of weariness give birth to the desires for such aesthetics.
A City Hyper-translated: Parallel and Paradox
Artists: Xiang Huidi, Zhang Wenchao, Yu Mo, Rafael Domenech, Tim Crowley, Yang Jian
Shenzhen is a place of constant “dream-building”. Throughout the urban planning and development of Shenzhen, “fast” has always been a keynote, defining the rhythm of the whole city. While it is related to government’s development strategies and support, another technological clue is hidden behind such “fast speed”: this is a city of replication. What’s so impressive about Shenzhen is the fast speed of its replication which accelerates the replication of images, motivating the construction of the city and people’s desire for the change of the city (desire for novelty).
Thus, the six artists and I want to pose the questions “What is Shenzhen?” and “What are images?”. The aim is to adopt a method similar to hyper-translation to interpret Shenzhen with their own translation strategies while deciphering the images. The six artists, Xiang Huidi, Zhang Wenchao, Yu Mo, Yang Jian, Rafael Domenech and Tim Crowley, are situated in parallel intertextuality as well as repulsive confrontation. Xiang Huidi will present a site-specific commissioned dynamic installation on the first floor of the OCT Art & Design Gallery, imitating the existing architectural structure of the OCT Art & Design Gallery; Zhang Wenchao will study on the desire replication on the Internet and present a set of 3D animation interactive device; Yu Mo will set fragmented and hidden black and white photographs at different places of the exhibition hall, in order to discuss the irreplicability of images; Yang Jian will present a maze-like installation work integrating the images of Shenzhen’s real estate through the display of installations; and the Cuban artists, Rafael Domenech and Tim Crowley will illustrate their views on the relationship between “image replication” and city by installations and paintings respectively.
From Europa and the Bull to A World of Minotaur
Curator: Song Yi
Artists: Chen Shuyu, Sweating, Goeun Bae, Jia Yu, Liu Xinyi, Monika Czyżyk, Zhang Guohua
The concept of this exhibition revolves around two myths. The relationship between the characters in both myths corresponds to two entirely different social forms.
In the myth of “Europa and the Bull,” the bull appears as an idealized image, neither good nor evil. And although the god disguises himself as the bull and abducts Europa, the relationship between the two is instinctive, libidinal, and harmonious – the end of the story gives birth to new life. In contrast, the relationship between the bull and the hero Theseus in the myth of “Minotaur” is antagonistic, with the former being evil and the latter being just. The hero aborts the Minotaur’s cannibalistic violence with the violence of killing, however, neither does he escape his tragic fate.
Applying the analogy to our contemporary life, the globalization of capitalism, the polarization of identity politics, the aesthetics of singularity and exclusivity, the mindset of prioritizing efficiency, and tool-oriented behaviors all bring about anxiety, distortion, and violence. The world has not yet indeed come to an end, perhaps because there still existing the force of reconciling and transcending, which is embodied in the meticulous observation and delicate expression in the works of these artists.
Resonances of One Hundred Things
Curator: Mia Yu
Artists: Chen Duxi, Liao Wen, Meryl McMaster, Khvay Samnang, Tong Wenmin, Tong Yixin, Zhang Wenxin, Zhang Wenzhi, Yao Qingmei
Coined in 1979 at the Shekou Industrial Zone, Shenzhen, the slogan “Time is Money, Efficiency is Life” marked a milestone in the reform and opening up process that brought great momentum to the Pearl River Delta and the whole of China in the 1980s. Today, as we are confronted by shared human predicaments such as climate change, environmental crises, and pandemics, how should we reflect on the linear model of time and the values of life under the logic of developmentalism? Borrowing the opportunity offered by Boomerang—OCAT Biennale·2021, we will revisit Shenzhen, the starting point of reform and opening up, and take a detour beyond speed and efficiency.
The exhibition Resonances of One Hundred Things curated by Mia Yu focuses on the possibility of multiple ecological perceptions and sensibilities through the rhythms, vibrations, and resonances shifting between human, non-human, and natural bodies. In classical Chinese, the phrase “one hundred things” refers to the aggregate of humans, flora and fauna, and natural bodies in a given cosmology. The rhetorical choice of “things” as a substitute for “persons” blurs the boundaries between the human and non-human. “Resonances” here refers to rhythmic formations such as breathing, the movements of tides, chanting, recitation, dancing, and metamorphosis. They are both the ecological media of energy exchange and the embodied knowledge of life itself. The exhibition invites nine artists to explore the exchange between “things” and “resonances” through a variety of media with open-ended approaches. Through mythology, traditional rituals, pre-modern cosmology, non-Western humanistic thought, East Asian geopolitics, and surveillance technology, they rethink the complex entanglements between human, non-human, and natural bodies, examine alternative critical aspects of ecological perception, and inject valuable perceptual experiences into the rational thinking of political ecology. Amid the sounds of wind, drums, waves and the hums of machines, human beings and non-human others perform rhythms together. What flows among the artworks are not merely the mutual consensus and empathy of “resonances” and “things” but also the undercurrents of contentious discords. Under the exhibition title, Resonances of One Hundred Things composes a collective ritual forged on heightened emotions and shared imagination: How do we bridge the gap between human and non-human species? And how can a more worthwhile future be achieved through giving, reciprocity, and care (rather than extraction)?
Park for the People
Curator: Jason Ho
Artists: Mapping Workshop, Yue Yang & Xu Teng, Qiu Danqin, Wen Na, Li Bo, Zhang Xinjun
Workshop Participants: Chen Zenghuang, Jiang Long, Liu Jiaxin, Zeng ke, Wu Yixuan, Xiao Hanyi, Yu Zihan, Yang Tuo, Wang Jingren, Chen Siying, Pan Wen, Gong Yi, Wu Yuhan, Yun Tian, Liu Zhuore, Huang Shiting, Zheng Xiangqing, Guo Weijie, Lin Zhuojun, Du Yu, Ye Huiqian, Lin Ziyu, Xie Yutong, Wang Xiaoyu, Mao Yichen, Zhang Jiaqi
The theme of the public space section is “Park for the People”. It comprises a collection of a total of 6 (groups of) artists’ works, including maps, field trips, public-engaged workshops and thoughts of works. The section particularly focuses upon “public participation”, which explores how artists may include public space users as the most important subject in the course of creation. When the works are completed, we will return the control and use rights of the works to the people, and encourage them to use, appropriate and even re-modify the works according to their desires, thus challenging not only the way public art has long been understood, imagined and created, but also the definition of “publicness” and the production mode of “public space”.