Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Holidays

Wishing all of you a great holiday season and good wishes for the new year.
Thanks for your loyal support to my blog.
I will be back with new posts for the new year.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 22, 2007

the factory

OK, of course, this isn't Warhol's factory. This is the art factory of one of the most capitalistic places on Earth: China, in particular, Shenzhen.
The Atlantic has a great article about the art factories in Shenzhen. They're even knocking off one of their own stars: Yue Minjun.
Ha ha ha ha.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Artforum - best of 2007

One thing I enjoy about the end of the year is the year end wrap up. The recent issue of Artforum which is as thick as a September Vogue does a great overview.
This is refreshing as lately I seem to be talking only to curators and arts administrators who despise artists and arts journalists who don't really like art.
So reading well-written passages about art by people who are deeply passionate about art is like vitamins to my soul.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Power of Creativity,1518,523409,00.html

Oscar Niemeyer recently turned 100 and he's still going strong with lots of ideas and projects that he's working on. This shows how creative activity will keep a person young and hopefully can inspire all of us to live life fully.


Read more at the above link about this famous architect who created Brasilia. The photo is from that site and shows Brasilia's National Museum and its space-age like ramp.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

ART iT - Japanese/English art magazine

I recently bought this issue of ART iT, a bilingual Japanese/English art magazine based in Tokyo. Publisher Ozaki Tetsuya is celebrating the mag's fourth anniversary.
With sharp writing, great layout and photos, this is a must-read for those interested in contemporary art. This issue focuses on the Tokyo scene.

Art Market Frenzy

Picture of a berry eating lemming courtesy of

Should the value of art be determined in accordance to its value in the art market? In other words, is an artwork that sells for one million dollars intrinsically better than a work that has no market? Why should we allow currency to determine the value of an art work? That seems like a rather shallow standard to hold an artwork to.
Most recently in Taiwan, collectors are frantically buying art. Why such sudden interest? The local market was extremely inert for the longest time. But it is with the gamut of media pushing the TV viewer to believe that art collecting is much more lucrative than playing the stock market. So now all the lemming-like investors are collecting art, but not for the purpose to enjoy it and better their lives; instead these nouveau collectors have as much desire to hold on to newly purchased art as to holding onto their shit.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fake Terracotta Warriors

Oops! We're fake.

According to Reuters, several Xi'an terracotta warriors on view at the Hamburg Museum of Ethnography may turn out to be fakes.

Kaiyodo & Otaku Culture at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum is currently showing Desire and Consumption: Kaiyodo and Otaku Culture, which is mainly plastic anime and manga figurines of busty maids and transforming robots.
Recently a Taipei city counselor registered a complaint about the 'obscene' toys on display.
Hey, aren't museums supposed to be the place to show sexy naked women?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mark Wallinger, Turner Prize, Anti-Iraq War Art

Okay, many blogs/news stories covered this. Mark Wallinger won the Turner Prize 2007 for his exacting replica of the anti-Iraq war protest staged by Brian Haw in Parliament Square from 2001 to 2006.
The work was hailed for its "immediacy, visceral intensity and historic importance."


I'm a firm believer that art can be used for social change and bring noteworthy issues to the public's attention. But here I'm a bit cynical. Does awarding this work create change in policy to ending the sanctions and war in Iraq or is this just a superficial feel-good work to say, yes, I'm liberal because I agree with the artist's sentiment? In other words, does this work come alive and change lives?

Details of the award here:

This work makes me more curious about Brian Haw.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

my Christmas wish list

Taiwan’s postal service currently stamps the grammatically-challenged slogan “UN for Taiwan” on every piece of outgoing mail and it is also printed on every local store receipt. This wishful verbalizing underscores Taiwan’s desire to be part of the international circuit. Now, Taiwan has no chance in hello to be taken seriously as a world player as long as China keeps saying no.

It is with this problematic tension and the seemingly irresolvable solution that I would have liked to see this issue addressed directly within the next Taipei Biennial scheduled for September 2008. Not only that. We all know that lately the artworld is spending lots of time/money in Beijing and Shanghai.

Instead of the tired model of a Euro/American curator being picked first and then choosing a Taiwanese one for the biennial, wouldn’t it have been much more exciting if the Taipei Biennial 2008 curators could be Fei Dawei and Victoria Lu?

Paris-based critic/curator Fei Dawei was recently named artistic director at the newly opened Ullens Art Center in Beijing. Victoria Lu, who curated exhibitions in Taiwan, was director at MOCA Shanghai and wrote extensively with a feminist slant about women artists in Taiwan.

I think this combination would give us a new perspective about contemporary art especially coming from two experienced curators with firsthand knowledge from this Chinese part of the world.
It also wouldn't hurt Taiwan to include a dash of femininism as so many shows seem to forget that point.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

William Carlos William's The Red Wheelbarrow

The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Vanessa Beecroft's VB61 Still Death! Darfur Still Deaf?

Photo courtesy

Whew! I heaved a sigh of relief when I heard they got the teddybear-Mohammed-naming rabble-rousing English teacher off the streets of Sudan. Really. Now the world is much safer.
Sudan, what a tolerant country.
Artist Vanessa Beecroft gave a shout out to Sudan when she created a performance at the opening of the Venice Biennale this past June.
Her piece titled, VB61 Still Death! Darfur Still Deaf? involved 30 Sudanese women darkened with makeup lying prone on a white canvas. Over a 3 hour period, the artist poured blood-red paint on and around the deathlike immobile women, both referencing Viennese Actionism and Sudan's wonderful treatment at Darfur.
Here's a video of the live performance:
My first reaction was cynical to this work as I thought it was a bit gratuitous, but upon subsequent viewing I find it extremely moving. The performance also moves from a solitary artist's position to a very public work about the world shared by the Sudanese performers and the audience. The work suddenly shifts from micro to macro in an alarming instant, like a tsunami.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Artist Sooreh Hera: Censorship, Fear of Fundamentalists

This image is from Iranian artist Sooreh Hera.
Her work is banned from showing at the muncipal museum of The Hague out of fear of offending anyone. Hmm, I wonder who that could be? Senator Larry Craig?
No, I think here they are afraid of offending people who get easily offended by children naming a teddy bear Mohammed.
Then this same group of people probably won't think too kindly about Sooreh Hera's work titled Adam and Ewald, a photo of two gay men wearing masks that depict Mohammed and his son-in-law Ali.
For further info, this blog has a lot of coverage and links:

Here's the artist's website:
I really can't stand self-censorship. What do you think?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Bruce Nauman's 40 year old neon sign

Bruce Nauman's neon sign made 40 years ago (!) says "The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths."
This statement still resonates today and is a nice thing to ponder in the morning, a bit like a Zen koan. The photo comes from which has an attractively designed website.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Susan Kendzulak's painting

"Discovering the Lies and Deceits of a Loved One"
oil on unstretched canvas, 2 meters x 2 meters, 2000

Takashi Murakami, tonight, at Taipei Arena

Takashi Murakami's new book discusses how to run art as a business. The Chinese translation hit the bookstores recently in Taiwan.
And tonight he appears at the huge sports stadium, theTaipei Arena, to promote his book and discuss his cultural concepts.
He's very hot in Taiwan with the fashionista and design crowd and all those 20 and 30-somethings who still live with mom and dad so they have a lot of disposable income for pricey handbags.
Not so sure of his appeal with the contemporary art crowd though.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Yoko Ono's

My blog posts clearly seem to reflect my mood.

Today it is simply . . .

i m a g i n e

p e a c e

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Men, Women and Gender Equity in the Arts

When I’m not art critiquing, I’m writing TOEFL tests. Recently I wrote about the lack of gender equity in the STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. However, once consciousness was raised and intervention programs occurred, the scores and interests of both boys and girls vastly improved.

And so it is for the arts. Without a Guerrilla Girl-type consciousness, the art world is still having women underrepresented in gallery and museum exhibitions and under-reviewed in print media. See for a similar discussion.

Unfortunately, this is not an issue that was resolved in the 20th century, but still ongoing. As artists, critics, curators, art consumers, etc., we need to be aware of this disparity and work on improving the gap as it will just make life better for everyone.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Chinese Art is Hot Now, Very Hot

Cai Guo-Qiang's fireworks extravaganza at the APEC meeting, Shanghai, 2001. Photo courtesy

According to, Hong Kong Christie's brought in $US 108.3 million on the first day of a five-day sale.

Cai Guo-Qiang's work, a set of dynamite drawings commissioned for APEC sold for HK$74.2 million.

Christie's recent sales show that Chinese art is hotter than Western art.

Of course, as an art audience we shouldn't be seduced by dizzying prices, but try and understand the value of art, and I don't just mean the market value.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art opens in Beijing

In 1985 to conceive of Beijing as a center for contemporary art would have been a fanciful and preposterous idea. How much the world changes in such a short time-frame.

An ambitious art space opened earlier this month. The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) founded by the Belgian baron and baroness Guy and Myriam Ullens is in a huge factory building, Bauhaus style in the popular 798 art zone.

This is the only non-profit privately funded art organization in China. Architects Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Ma Qingyun renovated the 8,000 square meters with 31 foot-high ceilings. Famed curator and critic Fei Dawei is the newly appointed artistic director.

The inaugural exhibition '85 New Wave: The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art focuses on the time period where it was extremely difficult for artists to make avant-garde works and which prompted an exodus of artists to the west such as Huang Yong-ping to Paris and Xu Bing to New York.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Taipei Biennial 2008 Curators: Vasif Kortun and Manray Hsu

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum announced yesterday that the Taipei Biennial 2008 curators are Vasif Kortun and Manray Hsu.

The exhibition is slated for September 2008 so it can hook up with the other biennials that take place in Asia during that time period.

Vasif Kortun served as director of the Istanbul Biennial in 1992 and 2005 and was curator of the Turkish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1998.

Manray Hsu was the 2000 Taipei Biennial co-curator. At that time, despite numerous entreaties from the museum, his curatorial essay never materialized, so the 2000 Taipei Biennial catalog was published along with the 2002 Taipei Biennial catalog. Hey, he’s got a second chance. Will Manray Hsu write a curatorial essay this time around?

Here he claims to have a PhD from Columbia University:

But strangely enough, his published dissertation never shows up in database searches.
Gasp! Could Manray Hsu be spreading falsehoods about his credentials?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Taipei Biennial 1998 -2008

Having the dubious distinction of seeing all the Taipei Biennials since its inception in 1998, I am posting an excerpt from my article in Yishu, March 2007 issue, where I discuss that the lobby of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum acts as a barometer.

Lobby as Social Barometer

The way artworks are installed in the cavernous lobby of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum for its biennials acts as a barometer for the social and cultural climate in Taiwan. One only needs to examine the lobby installations of subsequent installments of each biennial to get a true picture of Taipei’s social, economic, and artistic climate.

In 1998, for the first biennial, titled Site of Desire and curated by Fumio Nanjo, Dean E-Mei’s beaded Taiwan dollar curtain was suspended from the bank of escalators. Korean artist Choi Jeonghwa’s obese inflatable golden goddess statue, whose wings flapped, added to an atmosphere of excess that was akin to walking into a capitalistic arcade where the unabashed pursuit of money, market, and riches was waved in everyone’s faces. This paralleled the hope and excitement that Taipei residents felt at the time. There was a new mayor, and promises of riches seemed to be within grasp. The sense of opulence and optimism, with a bit of chaos thrown in, created a lively biennial. Cai Guo-Qiang’s bamboo structure of advertisements enveloping the outside and moving inside of the museum, combined with Hou Chun-ming’s erotic woodblock prints, created a mini scandal in the press, while Cai’s missile-shooting performance hinted at a promising future.

The 2000 biennial, The Sky is the Limit, curated by Jérôme Sans and Manray Hsu, created a more welcoming lobby. The entire floor was covered with Michael Lin’s pink-hued floral painting, while huge balloons of Jun’ya Yamada’s participatory calligraphic strips floated overhead. The dynamic conversation between these works created what seemed like a cozy space rather than a stuffy institution, encouraging visitors to forget politics and the economy and to just enjoy life.

In 2002, with the Great Theatre of the World, curators Bartomeu Marí and Jason Chia-chi Wang exhibited Rita McBride’s Arena, a large grandstand that transformed the lobby into a theatre space so that audience members became both performer and spectator, thus making the lobby an open forum for discussion.

Barbara Vanderlinden and Amy Huei-hwa Cheng’s 2004 Do You Believe in Reality?
combined Chang Yong-ho’s voyeuristic viewing platforms, providing a kind of privacy that was similar to placing a peep show in a big public area. With Kuo I-chen’s shadow of a real plane flying overhead, they created a lobby filled with marvel that made one want to look up in the air. The juxtapositions of works and viewing areas created a sense of shifting perspectives between reality and illusion.

For 2006, Dirty Yoga curated by Dan Cameron and Wang Jun-jieh, the placement in the lobby of solitary dark objects that did not interact with each other, that seemed solipsistic and bleak with little communication taking place among them, coincided with the Biennial’s own snubbing of the September convergence of other Asian biennials.
The combination of Regina Silvera’s black footprints pasted all over the museum’s façade, Daniel Ortega’s portable black obelisk on wheels, Nari Ward’s tarry snowman, Eko Nugroho’s black wall drawing, and Katharina Grosse’s pile of spray-painted dirt, unwittingly created an uncomfortable and uninviting atmosphere that left only one place to sit, a lonely bench sticking out of the dirt of Grosse’s soiled painting.
This dreary atmosphere seemed to symbolize the public’s feelings about the current status of Taiwan: black and cancerous.
Stay tuned for Taipei Biennial 2008!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Paul McCarthy's 10 Inch Gig

Here's some art you could sink your teeth into. And I'm not referring to the ten inches!

I'm talking about chocolate. What do you think I was talking about?!

Paul McCarthy transformed the Maccarone Gallery into a chocolate factory. His company Peter Paul Chocolates LLC is producing 10 inch, one pound chocolate Santas - in time for the holidays.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Art and the Hello Kitty Syndrome

Image courtesy of Sotheby's/AP.

Jeff Koons' stainless steel sculpture Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold) recently sold for the whopping price of US $23.6 million.

Then there's the (C) Murakami retro currently at LA MOCA with its Louis Vuitton shop and high commerce marketing tie-ins.

Art at the high end of the market functions a lot like the famed Hello Kitty image.

Hello Kitty does not have a mouth, so her face does not show emotion. It gains strength and resonance by viewers who read their own psychological readings into it. The Hello Kitty image is like a mirror and reflects the viewer's own empty wishes and desires back.

Don't you think Koon's Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold), for example, operates in a similar vein? It is fairly vapid in meaning and seems to reflect back its ostentatious feelings of wealth to the viewer (potential owner), kind of giving a metaphorical pat on the fat cat's back "greed is good; wealth is good. Don't think too much."

Writer Andrew Berardini writes on his blog ( about not being swayed by the art market and for the need for holding art to the same standards of literature:

"When market decides quality, and curators get in bed on this to satisfy trusties something wicked this way walks. These definitions can be based, somewhat, on the same definitions as literature. Art that is made for a high-end market with little actual significance and of substantially lower intellectual quality or complexity are the pulp. Complex art works of rich intellectual quality are the literature."


Thursday, November 15, 2007

International Public Art Project in Kaohsiung Harbor

Here's a stock photo of Kaohsiung, the second biggest city in Taiwan located in the south.
There is an open call for artists for its International Competition of Public Art Project in Kaohsiung Harbor.
The submission deadline is December 17th, 2007.

For more details, check the Kaohsiung Harbor Public Art Project official website on The site says that this is the first time to have a public art project for harbors in Taiwan and that competition between Asian harbors is "ferocious." Hmm, does Taiwan need its very own Merlion?
If you get frustrated by that site's lack of English information, then contact the project manager Wang Yuling at .

Good luck!

Murakami's MOCA Retrospective

Art. Fashion. LA. Hollywood. What's not to love?

The Takashi Murakami retrospective (isn't he too young for a retrospective) recently opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and was organized by chief curator Paul Schimmel. (Read Schimmel's Out of Actions, a great overview of performance art from around the world.)

Artforum discusses Murakami's emphasis on bodily fluids in his sculptures, installations and animations.

Here, you can see videos and download a gallery guide to the exhibition.

In spite of the high visibility of Murakami's imagery, it was still hard to find good downloadable images. This one comes from the Saatchi Gallery site.

Some online detractors are grumbling about the blatant commercialism as there is a newly opened Louis Vuitton shop on the premises, but I think if it brings more people into the museum and makes art part of their lives, that's fantastic and hopefully that will drive up the pay rates for art critics too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"The Hammer" by Carl Sandburg

I have seen
The old gods go
And the new gods come.

Day by day
And year by year
The idols fall
And the idols rise.

I worship the hammer.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Art World Scandal

Somedays, the arts pages resemble the sports pages in terms of misdeeds. The Nov/Dec issue of Art AsiaPacific has good coverage on the recent art scandal that rocked Seoul, Korea.

It turns out that Shin Jeong-Ah, the chief curator at Sungkok Art Museum lied about having a PhD from Yale. And her BFA and MBA degrees from the University of Kansas turned out to be fraudulent too.

When this came to light, Shin's curator position and her appointment as artistic co-director to the 2008 Gwangju Biennale were revoked.

In this day of computerized databases and internet search engines, why would anyone be so brazen to fake credentials?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Love/Hate at Taipei MOCA's Fashion Accidentally exhibition

Here are photos from my latest interactive project titled Love/Hate that was exhibited at Taipei MOCA's Fashion Accidentally exhibition in May 2007. Boxing gloves and knitted tubes worn together were designed to help to improve the relationship between two people.

Opening Night: The knitted items and photos are on display, while an impromptu boxing performance takes place.

Before the opening, I photographed strangers in Japan and in Hualien wearing my knitted hats and tubes. They seemed to enjoy the experience.

Waiting for Godot in New Orleans

Sublime cultural moments happen when the time, place and art meet in perfect harmony.

Artist Paul Chan worked with Creative Time to bring the Classical Theatre of Harlem to stage Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in the ninth ward of New Orleans.

The ninth ward was the heaviest hit in the devastating 2005 Hurricane Katrina and people are still desperately waiting for help to get back to their homes.

Dan Cameron vividly describes the experience of the event:

Creative Time’s site: Photo courtesy of Creative Time.

Friday, November 9, 2007

roll away, roll away

Every now and then I will feature my own art work, because, because… DAMN IT - it’s my blog!

So with no further ado, here’s an image from my disaster series of 2000.

This is titled “Landslide.” I was thinking of Monty Python’s “run away, run away” and thought of “roll away, roll away” during a landslide or a speeding truck on the highway.

Also at that time in Taiwan, stores didn’t sell disposable sponge paint rollers, so if you wanted to replace a roller, you always had to buy a new one with a metal handle. I had many paint rollers around my house as a result.

Interventions & Inspirations - Part II

The Singapore group Kill Your Television performed Design for Death in 2004. Here is an image of Rizman Putra performing, courtesy of .

This small image is courtesy of IT Park, the famed alternative art space in Taipei, here exhibiting Tsong Pu's installation of tape measures and snoring beds, to symbolize the aging body.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Interventions & Inspirations

This wonderful image is from . Pyuupiru is one of the artists who agreed to be in my exhibition titled "Interventions and Inspirations" that unfortunately had to be cancelled due to lack of funding.

The artists all agreed, but then no funding, hence a cancelled/postponed exhibition. Too bad! I wanted to show that exciting art is being created in Asia. If anyone is interested to sponsor this exhibition, please contact me via comment.

Here's my curatorial statement:

“Interventions and Inspirations” is an exhibition of conceptual art by artists based in China, Singapore, Korea, Japan and Taiwan and include works that stir up society with works that are pure poetry.

Artists: Singapore: Kill Your Television, a multimedia performance group who blurs the boundaries between media and art. China: Peng Yu and Sun Yuan provocatively relate to society. Korea: Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Flash animations of word jazz poems in several languages. Japan: Pyuupiru combines obsession with costume making. Taiwan: Tsong Pu is a visual poet while Wu Mali uses an art vocabulary wielding it like a social activist’s megaphone to rally the masses.

What separates us from other species is the possession of two powerful cognitive tools: the capability to intervene and the capacity to imagine. The world’s history is dynamically shaped both positively and negatively by interventions and inspirations.

The practice of agriculture can be seen as an early and broad-sweeping intervention that dramatically changed the course of society. Then there are those solo acts by courageous individuals who did not follow conventional thought, but followed their own inner voices. Individuals such as Rosa Parks sparked a movement, the Civil Rights Movement in the USA, just by her intervention of sitting on a restricted bus seat.

An intervention is an interference that changes a situation. Euphemistically a military intervention is an invasion, while a family intervention involves a group of people stopping their loved one from his chemical dependency. An art intervention challenges the status quo and shakes up commonplace thinking, while also simultaneously inspiring viewers to effect change in their own lives.

Inspiration allows one to dream and to reach for the stars. Advancements in science, medicine, arts and society all started off with a dream. Without being able to dream, one will not want to get out of bed in the morning. The capability to dream and to feel inspired is what makes us look forward to tomorrow.

By juxtaposing these two cognitive tools in an art exhibition, “Interventions and Inspirations” seeks to encompass the wide-range of thought in conceptual art that is currently happening in Asia and brings together 8-10 compelling artists and 4 provocative writers for an exhibition that will long be remembered.
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Taiwanese artist Yao Jui-chung 姚瑞中

Taiwanese artist Yao Jui-chung 姚瑞中 created a prolific output of ink drawings with gold leaf on handmade paper during his 3 month summer residency at the international Glenfiddich artist residency in Scotland. The framed results can now be seen at IT Park, Taipei, until December 8.

Yao's drawings that channel Scottish mythology while merging the dramatic Scottish highlands with the techniques of Chinese landscape painting are sublime.

Here, in “Wonderful: The Holy Ridge under the Milk-way” (photo courtesy of the artist) a figuratively-shaped mountain that is formed by intensely worked black ink scribbles show the erratic, quick hand movements by the artist.
Gold leaf rivlets stream forth from mysterious inner mountain sources. This huge mountain range dwarfs a red-cloaked figure who appears to be one with nature, enjoying the heavenliness of the scene.
Exploring the intricate traditions and modes of perspective of Chinese landscape painting can lend itself to some exciting new discoveries as Yao recently found out.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Food for Thought

Now that curators are getting top billing that is equal to artists, isn't it about time to start publishing their birthdates along with the obligatory artists' birthdates?

Why is it only artists whose birthdates get published in catalogs and press releases?

What is the reasoning behind that? That a young person is a natural genius and an older person has lived experience. With that reasoning, why aren't the birthdates of curators, critics, directors, etc. published in promotional materials?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Fine Art of Criticism

What’s black and white and ‘read’ all over? A newspaper. Get it?

English language newspapers, at one time, published the best in arts criticism: dance, classical music, fine arts, architecture and drama. But those days are long gone.

Terry Teachout writes about how valuable newspaper criticism was in the 20th century: “… a considerable number of the most significant collections of criticism published in the 20th century, including Virgil Thomson’s The Musical Scene (1945), Edwin Denby’s Looking at the Dance (1949), Kenneth Tynan’s Curtains (1961), and Hilton Kramer’s The Age of the Avant-Garde (1973) consisted in large part of newspaper reviews.”

Are English language readers no longer interested in the arts or reading cerebral criticism? What happened? Is celebrity gossip taking over our brains?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Aging: Getting Older by the Minute

As the populations of industrialized nations get older (i.e. the world’s baby boomers), aging is a hot topic these days. Computer scientist turned bio-geneticist Aubrey de Gray proposes an incredible thesis that if the muck can be cleaned out of our cells (the mitochondrial DNA), then we can live to be 1000 years old, that’s an extra 900 years or so. He believes we have the capability of finding a cure for aging. Imagine.

Traditionally artists staved off aging by having sought immortality through their artworks. There are notable artists who dealt directly and honestly with aging in their work: Picasso who tried holding onto his potency, Gilbert & George in elderly bodies but with still young lust at heart and John Coplans who is known for graphic black and white photo closeups of his aging body. The Tang Dynasty poet/painters musing about life in their old age. Female artists, hmm? Society doesn’t actually encourage the menopausal “crone” to express herself, so not many women seem to make art about their aging bodies – even an artist such as Louise Bourgeois: in her 90s and she’s still stuck on her childhood. Only Hannah Wilke comes to mind, but she was also focusing on the transitory states of sickness and health.

In this day, where grants, residencies and gallery programs focus on the emerging and the young artist, it is visionary to see the artists who tackle these universal ideas of aging. Especially, now that we are living longer, it is puzzling why there is not much more art about aging. Culturally, this is developed society’s major taboo. Aging equals impending death, and no one really wants to be reminded of such a mortal truth.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The United States of Identity

I live in Taiwan, a place that considers itself a country, and yes, I can vouch, by personal experience, it does function as an independent country as it has its own currency, banks, elected officials, laws. I pay my taxes, have health insurance, residency, and have public education available, etc. Now many other countries do not consider Taiwan as an independent country, but rather a “renegade province of China.”

So this got me to thinking about statehood and what constitutes a country. Artists have been questioning this idea for decades. An early example is Ono-Lennon’s Nutopia. Then there is Ladonia by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, AVL Ville by Atelier van Lieshout and Peter Coffin’s display of micronations which summed up the current situation of autonomous states at the Palais de Tokyo last March. Check for a current list of micronations; the list seems to be expanding. (I want to secede from my current state … of mind).

And check out , a website sponsored by Taiwan’s Council of Culture Affairs. I write an Opinion column for it. You’ll see that there’s a lotta kulchur comin’ out of this (non) country.

What do you think?

The Istanbul Biennial 2007: Optimism in the Age of Global War

Art biennials seem to be everywhere these days as they are becoming deeply rooted in the global art arena. Before this phenomenon began, however, there were just three key biennials: Venice (founded 1895), Sao Paulo (1951) and Istanbul (1973).

This year’s Istanbul Biennial that ends November 4, 2007 is organized by the internationally acclaimed curator Hou Hanru, who is the current Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the San Francisco Art Institute.

In this dismal age of Bush, war is on everyone’s minds. Hou’s timely theme for the biennial is: Not only possible, but also necessary: Optimism in the Age of Global War which takes a look at how globalization is changing modernity and features artists who work in developing areas of the world.

The selection of artists show that creative types no longer need to live in Western art centers like New York or Paris, as truly exciting and provocative art is being made in many parts of the world.

Artists include: Kutluğ Ataman, Atom Egoyan, Cao Fei, Renée Green, Huang Yong Ping, Rem Koolhaas / AMO, Raqs Media Collective and Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries. Check out the latter’s cool website for their Flash text animations set to evocative jazz tracks:

Taiwanese artist Peng Hung-Chih is exhibiting his videos (see photo): 10 Commandments and Islamic Exegesis which features his dog licking an empty wall to reveal religious texts that are violent in message, thus showing both religions’ shared violence and misogyny. As the dog licks the blank white wall, dark-colored words suddenly materialize. In his videos, Peng looks at the complicated world of society, religion and politics from a dog’s perspective. As we know, dog spelled backwards is god.

For further info: the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Western Arrogance Alive and Well in the Artworld

Is it just me? Or is it totally obnoxious to have a top 100 list of the movers and shakers in the artworld that is predominately filled with white men. I felt soiled after reading the ArtReview’s Power 100. I felt like mukamuka (Japanese word for feeling so angry you want to puke).

In these post-colonial, post-Saidean days, how can there be such a Anglo-testosterone-laden list? Only one person of African descent and a meager 27 percent of women were included. It boggles the mind. But then I live in Asia, so I don’t have the narrow mind-frame of such blatant western (and sexist) arrogance. (Thank God!)

What do you think?

Here's the link to London's ArtReview Power 100:

Taipei's Dream Community Parade

Taiwan's Medici

Last year I interviewed Gordon Tsai, a real estate developer in Taipei’s suburbs who claims he wants to be Taiwan's Medici, for Art AsiaPacific issue 52.

Gordon has 4 acres of land set up as the Dream Community which includes a bakery whose loaves are filled with the goat’s milk from the goats he raises, a restaurant whose dishes are inspired by the ethnicity of its multiethnic staff, and the ongoing construction of a residential building. His pet project is his annual papier-mâché floats/Samba parade.

He’s pictured here from last year’s parade all diapered up. He’s keen to give back to his community and spends wads of his own money to sponsor international celebration artists to come and create floats and teach stilt-walking to the local school children. Inspired by Seattle’s Fremont Solstice and Nevada’s Burning Man festivals, he longingly craves to create the biggest parade in Asia, something along the scale of Rio’s Carnivale.

He was adamant during our interview that he didn’t want any political influence, that his interest is solely in the arts and that he thinks art can help change society. But this year’s parade on October 20 was not in the suburbs like usual, but on Jenai Road, in Taipei, just blocks away from the Presidential Office. Hmm, do I smell political aspirations?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Christoph Büchel vs. MassMOCA

The Artist vs. The Institution

Art and law really seem like oil and vinegar; they don’t mix well. Many of us think art is for nourishing our spirits, while law functions in the domain of unpleasant necessities, so it is strikingly newsworthy when art and law confront each other as in the malicious case of the artist: Christoph Büchel vs. the institution: MassMOCA.

Click here for a recent photo essay:

I experienced Büchel’s meaty installation Shelter II at the O.K.Centrum in Linz, Austria (their photo) in the summer of 2002 . One first had to enter a sausage stand on the sidewalk and climb into the building, passing through rooms literally and figuratively frozen in entropy. Feeling like a disembodied Alice in a dysfunctional wonderland, I was so moved by how Büchel could convey anxiety to me, the viewer, that I quickly wrote an essay about this work and sent it to him.

The moral of the story is that the relationship between an artist and an institution is a lot like a marriage: some work out well, while others really require a pre-nup agreement.