OCAT Shanghai is pleased to present two solo exhibitions, The Sensation of Logic by digital media artist Wang Changcun and History of an Action by Zhu Changquan, the recipient of the “Special Award” of the Huayu Youth Award, opening from September 21st to December 2nd, 2018. The exhibitions are curated and nominated by independent curator Lu Leiping and assistant director of OCAT Shanghai, Tao Hanchen. Born in 1980s, both media artists think outside of the frameworks of traditional art domains by adopting scenario simulation, microscopic simulation, computer programming, electronic music, and other languages to present young artists’ different perspectives in observing the world and new means of engagement with everyday life. At the same time, the exhibitions further reveal the inevitable shift from representational to site-specific art practices in the development of media art. Wang Changcun invites the viewer into the actions of virtual images by manipulating the joystick, while Zhu Changquan creates virtual scenarios through digital technology to bring viewers to participate in the details of his adventurous stories. Both artists’ approaches have unquestionably demystified "I think therefore you are", an idiom derived from Descartes' "I think therefore I am", aiming to establish artistic encounter and interaction on site, and a respect for the existence of diversified thinking.
The Sensation of Logic presents more than a dozen works spanning from experimental music, sound installation, interactive video installation to digital images Wang Changcun has produced since 2009. As one of the Chinese pioneers in experimental music and computer-programmed digital composition, Wang Changcun has created vast digital and cross-media artworks under the name of “AYRTBH”. Unlike other conventional musicians or artists, he adopts programming softwares, like Python, Max and so forth to set the pattern and logic of artistic production. Specific algorithms are used to collect, categorize, collage and transform his audio and visual materials, thus constructing various audio and visual spaces that mix nature life and digital technology. His installations and video works are more like games for the artist’s own entertainment. Saved on his computer’s hard-drive, they rarely show themselves to others. Given his non-utilitarian art practice, an inexplicable logic and relationship comes into being among his works that are in completely different forms. Within that, one can also discover a geeky humor and lyricism.
History of an Action maps Zhu Changquan’s artistic practice since 2014, shedding lights on a distinct but underlying clue among his works. Unlike Wang Changcun who processes a large volume of programming language, Zhu Changquan adopts video as his primary artistic language. From perspectives of logic disintegration, behavior deconstruction and polysemy of symbols, Zhu expounds on issues of perception, language, time and space, memory, existence, etc., and forges “All-factor Image Narrative” as his core practical concept. History of An Action, in Zhu Changquan’s interpretation is “a process of movement between the fingers and the development of events or of symbolic characters.” In his view, the past is static, and to consider everything as a thing in the past allows for an elucidation, where one can access the truth through memories, or to inquire deeper about the truth. As one steps into Zhu Changquan’s scenario-simulated labyrinth of consciousness, where he stands lies the forking history of infinite possibilities, while the future is over there.
The Sensation of Logic
In discussing the formal categorization of Wang Changcun’s art practice, he especially mentioned the notion of “Electronic Brain Art”. At first, the term “Electronic Brain” immediately reminds me of those images of ecletronic chips implanted in human brains in Ghost in the Shell by Japanese manga artist Shirow Masamune.
Wang Changcun’s “Electronic Brain Art” neither manifests in robotic forms nor has the inclination for “AI Art”. His “Electronic Brain” refers to the mode of artistic production and the essence of his art practice. In other words, it exists within the internal logic of his practice. Were the impetus to invent photography for the 19th Century French inventors Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and British scientist William Henry Fox Talbot grounded in the interest to represent the “installation” of worldly landscapes without using brush and paint, then for Wang Changcun and other computer engineers, this “installation” would be the computer. The reason for categorizing his practice as “Electronic Brain Art” rather than “programming art”, is to emphasize the limitations in subjectivity and proactivity in the artistic programming written by an artist from an engineering background. "Electronic Brain" generates a significant degree of impromptu and incidental artworks that offer pleasant surprises.
The title of the exhibition is inspired by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s book, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Logic can be explained, while sensation may not be defined in absolution. Therefore, The Sensation of Logic is open-ended. Wang Changcun recently released the vinyl record Song of Anon. He also simultaneously released the eponymous software on his personal website. So, who is the anonymous one? It must be none other than the simulation program he uses for music composition. And by using this program, anyone could program in order to carry on the song of the anonymous indefinitely, and without repetition.
History of an Action
History of an Action presents emerging media artist Zhu Changquan’s staged works, that brings together the essential components of his practice since 2014. This subject also resonates with his new works. Zhu Changquan adopts video art as his primary language of expression to engage in artistic activities through analyzing everyday life. For Zhu’s first art museum solo exhibition, instead of presenting an “art historical” summary of art practice, it aims to showcase the methodologies and approaches the artist has adopted in shaping “the history of his artistic action” that defines the artist’s practice over the last five years.
"All-factors Image Narratives” marks the central notion of Zhu Changquan's video works. Everyday customs conditions the general public to incline for certain kinds of visual phenomenon. However, the formation of an event does not necessarily follow a linear progression. Instead, what is often overlooked as “useless” that is concealed behind its own assumption plays a pivotal role in solving the problem. Zhu Changquan tries to free these “useless things” (all factors) from the myth of conventional experiences, so they could be restored to serve authentic purposes of narration.
It’s not difficult to discover that, every work in this exhibition is grounded by its internal and independent logic. However, when we undo the boundary of looking at these works, their embedded clues become visible – the overlapping moving images, whispering subtitles, and the color block montage challenging our common ways of viewing, contribute to the concise narrative structure and solid integrity, as well as the artist’s inquisitions along the progression of his practice. Therefore, the exhibition allows for a relatively open space and exhibition modes for various artistic mediums, in order to facilitate the viewer to visualize the artist’s “history of action”.
Lu Leiping graduated from China Academy of Art and Donghua University. She holds a PhD degree from School of Arts and Humanities of China Academy of Art. Since 2000, she has been living in Shanghai, dividing her time between art criticism and curating exhibitions. Over the years, she worked in China Academy of Art, Shanghai BizART Art Center, ShanghART Gallery (Shanghai) and Xilingyinshe Auction House. She is associate professor of Shanghai Normal University where she has been teaching from 2004. Also she is the co-founder of Shanghai Small Art Museum (SAM).
Tao Hanchen was born in Hangzhou in 1987, lives and works in Shanghai currently. He received his MA in contemporary art curatorial study at China Academy of Art, in 2012. From 2013 to 2016 he worked at OCAT Shanghai exhibition department, organized and participated in curating exhibitions. From 2017, he works as the assistant director in OCAT Shanghai.