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Living Theatre

Beijing Gallery Weekend 2021
 Lugas Syllabus, For a Thousand Mrmories , 2020-2021, Brass, Alluminium, Stainless steel 200 x 70 x 30 cm, Courtesy Linda Gallery 
 Cao Fei,  La Town  (Still), 2014, Single-channel video installation, 16:9, 36'54". Courtesy the artist, Vitamin Creative Space, and Sprüth Magers. 
 Duang Zhenqu,  Sketching of Mizhi County II,  1987, oil on paper, 39x54cm, courtesy N3 Gallery
 Rafael Domenech, "Imperfect Fragments of an Uncertain Whole", Installation view, courtesy Hua International 
 Installation view of "Wang Jianwei: Always being, but not the whole " , 2021, Courtesy Long March Space
 Installation view of Hoo Moojong, Aye Gallery
 Ryuichi Sakamoto + Shiro Takatani, LIFE - fluid, invisible, inaudible..., 2007/2021, Installation,  24 channel audio, 12 acrylic water tanks with ultrasonic fog generators and video projectors, courtesy M Woods Museum
 Sun Wenhao, I f I Am King , 2016, Single channel video, colour, sound, 1'58'', Courtesy of Canton Gallery
 Installation view, Galerie Urs Meile
 Heidi Bucher, 1988 , Video, 8’58”, Courtesy of Südwestrundfunk, Stuttgart and Inside Out Museum Beijing
 Cinderella Going to a Date, 2021, painted aluminum, 69 x 81 x 31 cm, courtesy CLC Gallery Venture  

At Beijing Gallery Weekend, smaller off-spaces and well-established non-profit institutions like UCCA, M Woods, and Beijing Inside-Out alike showcased the enthusiasm, energy, and drive of this propitious endeavour.

 

The 2021 edition of Beijing’s Gallery Weekend was as sprawling and multi-faceted as the city that played host to it. In addition to local galleries and institutions that take space in the capital’s 798 art district, were international galleries from New York, London, and across the Asian continent. From smaller off-spaces to well-established non-profit institutions like UCCA, M Woods, and Beijing Inside-Out, the latter of which organised a huge thematic show on postmodernism and the 1980s.

 

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Institutions like UCCA did their part in shouldering the Chinese load with their breath-taking retrospective of Cao Fei, “Staging the Era”, an artist whose own personal journey mirrors much of the country’s recent past, and whose works are still anticipating its future. For those less familiar with the landscape of Beijing, The Smart Gallery put its namesake, Shamate (Chinese for “smart”) – a culture of young working-class kids who dress like cosplay gone goth – on the big stage of the art extravaganza. For international visitors, it was a key into a culture that has probably gone unnoticed by many outside of China.

 

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N3 Contemporary Art’s “Forever Young”, featuring paintings by Duang Zhenqu was a reminder that imbedded in the history of the country and Beijing is a nearly unbroken history of floral motifs, related in this case to a popular folk song from the Northwest region.

 

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Bolder moves included Hua International’s pitch perfect show by Cuban artist Rafael Domenech, “Imperfect Fragments of an Uncertain Whole”, which laid books, sculptures, texts, and graphic ephemera in an installation that was as puzzling and mesmerizing as any sense of recording the universe probably should be.

 

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This was an excellent accompaniment for Long March Space’s “Always being, but not the whole”, with works by Wang Jianwei, which took similar strides in a kind of stoic doubt about anything the scale and breadth of a country, or a city, or even a person. The whole has many holes, it seems, and the absurdist dream of capturing something entirely is enough grist for the mill. The effort was a powerful one: to see connections emerging between ideas and materials as opposed to fixed national identities.

 

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Hoo Moojong’s Parisian works on paper, “La Vie sur Papier”, from the 1960s and 70s were a case in point at Aye Gallery, where it was clear that transnational exchanges have had a life of their own, often drawing from an individual artist and their direct encounters with another city, beneath the lines of commercial exchange.

 

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M Woods took the atmosphere of concentrated, almost reclusive artist life back into Beijing with their exhibition “Giorgio Morandi: The Poetics of Stillness”, which practically begged viewers to learn how to look closely, again, maybe for the first time. With the scaled-backed Gallery Weekend’s 37 participants (still rather huge for any city’s standards) the organisers appeared to harp on this point: to see in person requires a different mode of attention, and that the difference is qualitative not quantitative.

 

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This was indeed the sentiment of new eyes for old, culminating in the large, Public Sector show curated by Bao Dong, “Infinite Public.” It was not just works on paper, or delicate still lives, but the massive, phenomenal encounter with the scale and substance of sculpture, and the intimacy of live performance. What is public tends to become private, and this timely intervention, calling for a public that is “infinite” was a powerful reminder, in the heart of rapid advancement and capitalist acquisition, that a “public” is still possible, with the caveat, of course, that there is no public without a public space.

 

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Colin Lang