Originally published in ‘City Weekend’, Shanghai, Art Affairs section by HUNTER BRAITHWAITE 6/5/2010
“Double Infinity” engages the Expo’s utopia complex with a solid lineup of artists, performances and lectures.
Shanghai-based art collective Arthub reinterprets pieces from the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, a modern art museum renowned for its collection of El Lissitzky, the Russian designer, architect and photographer. This show poses questions about whether the meaning of work changes once it enters transnational space.
The Lissitzkys alone are worth the trip. Announcer heralds a new mechanical age, with the human form purified into geometric shapes. Although the piece aesthetically belongs in early 20th century Russia, its ambitious break with tradition is comfortable in Shanghai.
Instead of another East vs. West show, “Double Infinity” shows us utopia vs. tenement, art vs. the world it depicts. Liu Gang’s images from Dutch Town, the lowlands-inspired Pudong subdivision, capture Shanghai’s habit of throwing pictures of Haibao and mountain streams over construction sites. In The City as Dreamworld and Catastrophe, Susan Buck-Morss defines this meshing of image and city as “an echo of the call for social utopia, like a mirage of the existence of collective desire.”
Although Shanghai as either dreamworld or catastrophe is nothing to chuckle at, “Double Infinity” does a good job at making the whole discussion entertaining. Thai artist Surasi Kusolwong hides a gold necklace in a gallery full of thread. The viewer is invited to find the necklace, thus participating in the endless search for the genuine that lies at the end of consumption. Or take the Xijing Men Collective. They have created a fictional country and, in a critique of urban planning, carve up a watermelon to fit their needs (pictured).
Maya Kramer hired a candy sculptor from Nanjing to create replicas of some of the Van Abbe’s more risqué pieces. It’s hard to slip a piece like Warhol’s Electric Chair through Chinese customs, so why not make duplicates out of sugar? By reproducing controversial art, Kramer’s work lambasts the saccharine culture that will be diplomatically hawked this summer.