Heard this tune before

Time to get my sorry ass in gear and write about the Shanghai Biennale I visited end of december. It was held in a copy of Tate Modern – a converted power plant on the banks of the Huangpu river. Henk Slager (dean at MaHKU) was curator in 2008 – in another building altogether – and some of the artists he took with them also lectured us at MaHKU, so I had an interest. The theme for the 2012 Biennale ‘is a pressing one for China: how to progress from building infrastructure to creating a modern society’.

So what to write about it? So difficult to work from impressions towards a kind of judgement. What’s to judge? Well, looking back, it was kind of bland, really. Some good, some not-so-good, and some propaganda mixed in. A lot of works could have been shown in any context, anywhere. No sharp edges or unexpected turnings. Not one work that invited participation – was relegated to the role of spectator, again.

I did have  fun watching,  though. Especially with a  ‘lauf-der-dinge’  by Fischli and Weiss, featuring flames and steam and such. Check a moving image here.

Another good’un was Bloch – a round-the-world trip of a tree trunk from Appenzell. A project by Com&Com, who combine contemporary art with folk culture – Lederhosen and all. The tree trunk is logged all over the world and is used as a prop for a local happening.  Great idea! I hoped there was an installment where Shanghai plays a part but did not have the patience to wait this out.  But the Swiss were certainly making good this time!

A puzzling entry about Diankou, apparently a model village in South China featuring an industrious population, a very high income per capita and a high level of social enlightenment.  “Which means all citizens are equal and have equal opportunities.”  Now where did we hear this tune before?


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