Yan Lei: SUPPORT

支柱: 颜磊

“支柱”是北京艺术家颜磊的一个装置/绘画项目,它对当代艺术奢华现象提出质疑。作品在上海外滩三号展出时,建筑刚巧改造翻新。颜磊不无幽默地批判了艺术的商品化,并随之追问文化生产的真正含义。

英语中“Bund”一词来自波斯语“band”,意为筑堤码头或裸土堤坝。起初该词在16世纪被莫卧儿人带到印度;到了19世纪末期,一个来自沙宣家族(Sassoon family)的巴格达迪犹太人(Baghdadi Jew)将它带到上海。接着殖民史开始书写,浸满了大英帝国的气味,19世纪晚期“外滩”(the Bund)地区大量银行与商贸行的建筑鳞次栉比,从而逐渐成长为远东的金融中心。

外滩三号被誉为上海奢华生活风尚的头号地标,其改建将外滩从浸淫着过往殖民史的万国建筑群转变为日渐繁荣的高档餐厅与奢侈品店琳琅一条街。这座由联合保险公司(Union Assurance)建于1916年的建筑曾入驻东亚共同体(East Asiatic)与印度商业银行(Mercantile Bank of India)等机构。2000年,美国建筑师迈克尔 格雷夫斯(Michael Graves)受邀重新设计外滩三号的室内,寄望捕捉对新生城市名流的想象,所谓“上海风韵”。格雷夫斯设计的核心旨在以新古典主义风格重新演绎东西方的中庭。“东方”体现在建筑室内一系列相得益彰的实木立柱与翠绿大理石立面,赋予楼体空间戏剧性的舞台感;而光影交错的丛林试图在这座人工楼宇中唤醒一丝自然的呼吸,这也为画廊的空间风格定了调。

2004年一月开幕的沪申画廊一直以来兼顾历史感与其作为当代艺术展出机构的代表性。同其他一般展厅模式将观赏艺术作为一种纯粹而中立的体验不同,沪申画廊立足于一座历史悠久的建筑,坐拥 浦东与外滩的全景,加之设计超凡的中庭,都可为陈设其中的艺术品加分。当许多艺术家对这些卓越的硬件条件动心时,却少有人会主动反思除这些硬件条件外机构身份对作品展示有效性的影响。

颜磊提问:究竟有什么可以附加给这类平台?尽管建筑的殖民历史背景让其商业运作显得顺理成章,但其真正定位依然空缺。在这类高档空间中展出当代艺术的固有意义究竟为何?画廊中当代艺术的呈现即已沦为奢华环境权威叙事的牺牲品,那么自我扩张的政权同艺术文化资本的支持间可以享有怎样的共生关系?在一个本就用来验证艺术的空间,现场的艺术介入还会有怎样的可能性?

观者步入展厅,映入眼帘的首先便是一组12根高挑古典立柱;这可在外滩许多其他建筑中看到。颜磊在得知这些立柱是建筑本身永久保留的必要元素并显然会对艺术作品在展厅中的呈现产生影响后,决定将这些立柱加粗成如今门厅中的那些立柱并以此作为同物理呈现互动的方式。艺术家为了重新赋予其历史语境,选用采自黄浦江的“本土”泥作为做旧人工立柱的材料。从而,一套升级版支撑结构进驻了展厅,但结果却看似什么都没发生过。

为了弱化展厅的整体改造,颜磊决定再配上一组色轮绘画。五幅大型“靶心”绘画被挂在离入口处最远的墙上,画的一边嵌入了展墙。以这种非常规视野设置画作展示位置的做法可能出于满足观众到展厅中以最妥协的姿态欣赏作品的期待。据艺术家称,这些画作都是请受过专业训练的工人根据既有的数理公式绘就的,一幅画的中心点的颜色会与下一幅的背景色相呼应。有人可能会将这些画作与改造后立柱的横截面相联系,但其实两者并无直接关联。提到展览能否以是否向公众传达一个连贯的信息而被评判的问题,颜磊对激发不安感尤其感兴趣,这种不安感会触发并激化绘画的抽象视觉效果与既定空间中建筑秩序的挪用之间的共振。

“支柱”并不仅仅是通过对原有建筑的改造从而提高其对观众的可见度的简单注脚,而是邀请观众检视这一时髦空间本身的荒谬,从而被替换的建筑元素、主墙与白色的展厅空间、独自成篇的楼宇中庭、历史建筑改造后的残余——这所有不同的组件都汇总到一起来,造就了一个需要持续呈现艺术作品来自我激活的被动平台。

在最近一次访谈中,颜磊如是说:“在创造图像的艺术里,所谓创作体系其实是我知识的延伸,包括如何将我对光线、构图、色彩与创作体系的理解投诸应用。有意思的是,经常人们觉得我其实什么都没做,或者没留下任何概念的痕迹。这挺好的,因为他们并未真的意识到我对这些事抱着多么大的热情。一件作品就像一颗种子。一旦你把它扔出去,就再也管不着了。”[1]作为一名探测蓬勃发展的中国当代艺术市场中屏蔽效应的主力,颜磊挠了不同文化推广市场机制的痒痒,同时梳理出价值与意义同文化生产的不同联结方式。颜磊超逾既成的拒绝常理的不可预知。现在,种子在你手中…

文/陈浩扬

2007年3月26日

译/顾灵


[1]  瓦凌 博而励(Waling Boers),“颜磊—与瓦凌 博而励的访谈”,《摸着石头:当今中国艺术》,瓦凌 博而励、皮力著,北京东八时区出版社,2007,第147页

 

SUPPORT is an installation/painting project created by Beijing based artist, Yan Lei, who questions our reliance on luxurious settings to endow values in the presentation of contemporary art. In coming to terms with the historical connotations of Three on the Bund [TOTB] a building in Shanghai where this exhibition was held, Yan critiques the commoditization of art with a sense of humor and in turn questions the very meaning of cultural production.

The word Bund originates from the Persian word ‘band’, meaning an embanked quay or a muddy embankment. The term was first brought to India by the Mughals at the beginning of the 16th century and later, by a member of the Sassoon family, a Baghdadi Jew, to Shanghai in the late 19th century. Once a British settlement immersed within the history of concession, the building boom during the late 19th century brought numerous banks and trading houses to this area and gradually transformed the Bund into a financial center of the Far East.

The establishment of TOTB, reputed as the leader for defining luxury lifestyle in Shanghai, has transformed the Bund’s outlook from a past international settlement steeped within colonial history to that of a location increasingly crowded with high brow culinary and retail outlets. The building was built in 1916 by the Union Assurance Company; its past occupants included the East Asiatic and Mercantile Bank of India. In 2000, the American architect Michael Graves was commissioned to redesign the interior of Bund number three in the hopes of capturing the very imagination of an emerging class of urban socialites- Shanghai style. The center piece of Graves’ design focuses on reinterpreting the east and west atrium in a neo-classical manner. The east atrium situated inside the gallery incorporates a series of wooden pillars in combination with a green marble façade to stage a dramatic towering enclave; the interplay of light and shadow, resembling a forest, is intended to evoke naturalism in a laden building which also sets the tone for the gallery’s interior.

The atrium, Shanghai Gallery of Art

With the opening of the SGA in January of 2004, every attempt has been made to enrich this site with a sense of history and to make it a credible place in the presentation of contemporary art. Unlike the white cube gallery model which predicates on the viewing of art as a pure and neutral experience, what this gallery offers is much more- a historic building, panoramic views of Pudong and the Bund, a remarkable atrium­ all there to enrich an inherent meaning of the artwork on display. While many artists are deeply impressed by such prominent architectural features which define the gallery space, only a handful of artists proactively reflect upon their practice in relation to the institutional identity let alone its physical conditions for validating the artwork on view.

Yan Lei poses the question of what we may add to such a laden platform. As the building’s colonial past is featured to legitimate its commercial activities, yet there remains a void in locating its real place. What is the inherent meaning for showcasing contemporary art in such a gentrified setting? Furthermore, given that the presentation of contemporary art in the gallery falls prey to the master narrative of a luxurious environment, what is the symbiotic relationship between a regime of self-aggrandizement and an endorsement of the cultural capital of art itself? What are the other possibilities for artistic intervention at a site which has set out to validate art in the first place?

As one enters the gallery, one first observes a series of twelve large scale classical pillars; similar samples are easily found from amongst the many buildings along the Bund. In knowing that the existing pillars are in effect permanent structure which dictates the reading of artwork in the space, Yan enlarges these pillars in a direct scale to those Doric columns that are currently located at the gallery’s foyer, as a way to negotiate with its physical presence. Intended to re-historicize the site, the artist has chosen to use the mud from the Whampoa River as the “local” yet fragile material for making these artificial pillars look aged. An additional support structure is therefore provided for the gallery, but it appears if nothing has really occurred after all.

Reception area, Shanghai Gallery of Art

The Shanghai Gallery of Art /  Support, Installation view

To soften the tone of an all-out institutional critique on the gallery, Yan has decided to include a series of color wheel paintings for this exhibition. Five large scale “target” paintings have been installed on the farthest possible viewing space from the gallery’s entrance, and with one edge of the paintings fledged with those of the encompassing walls. The reasoning behind placing such paintings beyond immediate normal sight is done almost by one of chances, there to satisfy our expectation to see an artwork in the most compromised manner possible in an art gallery. Made by trained workers and completed with a numeric formula in mind (as specified by the artist), the color of the focal center of one panel inside a painting reflects as the background of what follows. One may associate these paintings with the inner quality of the muddy pillars in full sight, yet the former and latter have no direct link with one another whatsoever. Should the quality of an exhibition be judged by delivering a coherent message to the public, Yan is interested in provoking a sense of unease, one that polarizes the tension between the painting’s abstract visual effects versus the imposition of an architectural order of a given space towards the extreme.

Support not only functions as a footnote to reveal the innate architectural program by making it more apparent to the audience, it invites us to contemplate the absurdity of a celebrated site, whereby displaced architectural fragments, a sole wall of a white cube space, a monolithic atrium, reconstituted remnants of a historic building- all disparate components- come together to form a blasé platform that demands a constant presence of artwork to validate itself.

Support, Installation view

During a recent interview, Yan Lei stated: “The system of working is the extension of my knowledge in the art of creating images, including the application of what I understand about light, composition, color and the system of making. What is interesting is that people sometimes don’t think I have done anything at all, or, that there is any trace of concept in it. It is good that they don’t really realize how passionate I am about these things. An artwork is like a seed. After you throw it, you don’t have any control over it.”[1] As a critical protagonist who probes the blanketing effect of a burgeoning contemporary Chinese art market, Yan pokes fun at the actual apparatus of the business of marketing cultural differences and teases out how different ways value and meaning are attached to cultural production. Yan transcends what is given into something unpredictable that denies a common logic. Now you have the seed….

David Ho Yeung Chan

Mar 26, 2007


[1]  Waling Boers, “Yan Lei- interviewed by Waling Boers,” in Touching the Stones- Chinese Art now, ed. Waling Boers (Beijing: Timezone 8, 2007), 147.

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