creepy freaky cool: metamorphosis – mirror

There are only a few weeks left for this exhibition! And I definitely recommend it … if you’re okay with the possibility of nightmares. I quite like OCAT Shanghai, a decently-sized museum specializing in contemporary multimedia art that’s located along the north side of Suzhou River. I’ve never been a big media/video art person, but I’ve liked every exhibition of theirs I’ve been to.

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I took some non-art friends to the opening of the Metamorphosis – Mirror exhibition and at the end of the exhibition, one friend turned to me and said, “I’m going to have nightmares tonight.” Ha. I found it pretty great. Creepy and freaky, but great. Both artists (Daniel Lee and Roger Ballen) work largely in photography, but there were some videos and it was very thought-provoking.

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Daniel Lee’s work (above) was creepy as hell, morphing animals and people. Very well done, but disturbing to see people transformed (or rather metamorphosed) like that. On the other side of the museum, Roger Ballen’s work (below) was even creepier. Square black and white photos of weird people and scenes. Oh, and the loud thumping video? That would be the music video for Die Antwoord’s “I Fink U Freeky” that Roger Ballen collaborated on. My friends and I watched it twice … in shocked silence.

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Metamorphosis – Mirror: A Double Solo Show by Daniel Lee and Roger Ballen
July 13 – September 14, 2014

OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT)
1016 North Suzhou Road
Zhabei District, Shanghai
Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, 10 AM – 7 PM
Friday and Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM

animamix biennale at moca shanghai

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Han Yajuan, (detail)

The Animamimx Biennale is closing at the end of the week at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai. Since I still haven’t posted anything about it … I’m getting on that now :)

The group show is all about the animated, so it’s a mixed bag of artists and mediums – illustration, painting, video, sculpture, mixed media, et cetera. Not my cup of tea, but overall a good show. On the ground floor, Lu Yang’s Uterusman is weird and some of the paintings by Viki Lulu House (an artist collective) are just too cute, but I found the film Time of Cherry Blossoms by Tsai Shiucheng on the second floor was quite moving and the top floor’s Little Mona Lisa special exhibition interesting.

I don’t have a favorite museum in Shanghai, but MOCA is pretty solid and definitely on the upper half of the list. And given all the new museums popping up around China, MOCA, which was established in 2005 and is located in People’s Park, is one of Shanghai’s more established art museums even though it’s not even ten years old. Crazy, right? Since it’s not a very big museum and doesn’t have a permanent collection, it doesn’t warrant multiple trips per exhibition for me, but I’ll look into getting a membership for next year regardless.

Sigh … I miss having free admission to New York museums!

Animamix Biennale: Rediscovery
April 12 – June 15, 2014

MOCA Shanghai
People’s Park, 231 Nanjing West Road, Shanghai
Sunday to Thursday, 10 AM – 6 PM
Friday to Saturday, 9 AM – 7 PM
Admission: 50 RMB

faves from moma’s contemporary

I’m no artist. And I can be quite particular and judge-y, so a lot of times when I see contemporary art I’m just like … eh, no. I love contemporary art, but generally more for the intellectual exercise than for its actual aesthetics. But once in a blue moon I’ll see something and it’s so obviously ‘contemporary’ but in a way that I can actually relate to and simply respond. So here are two pieces from MoMA’s contemporary wing that I just adore.

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“Untitled (Poster Painting)” (2008) by Klara Lidén. I’ve always had a thing for paper. Maybe it’s the architect in me, but I’ve always appreciated the physical texture of paper and its fragility over the sleek unreality of digital or the humdrum tradition of stretched canvas. I love this work, the layering of printed paper, torn and imprecise, curling, struggling to free itself from the wall. And yet at its core, blank and undefined.

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“Play Dead; Real Time” (2003) by Douglas Gordon. This was pretty cool. Normally I’m not a big fan of video art because it tends to be very convoluted and requires you to sit on a weird bench and watch, but this piece had you walking around in order to appreciate the scale of it and the effect of light and changing perspective. The piece took up the entire room, and there were two large screens which had video projected onto them and a smaller monitor on the floor in the corner. So as you walked around in the darkened space, the larger-than-life elephants lumbered about in their brightly lit flat surfaces … and other people made hand shadows.

back in h-town: contemporary arts museum houston

Ah, so last week I posted about the MFAH, which I often visited this past summer during my lunch breaks. If you go to Cafe Express (the MFAH’s cafe) or the food truck parked in the MFAH parking lot, you get free admission to the MFAH if you go at lunchtime. So … me and the other interns went a number of times. Anyhow, I used to intern at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), so I had to stop by to check out its new exhibits. It’s much smaller than the MFAH and it’s a non-collecting museum, so there’s no permanent collection like the MFAH has.


First up, the CAMH got a statue! Of Andy Warhol! “The Andy Monument” by Rob Pruitt was apparently on display in New York’s Union Square for a while, but seeing as I still have not been to Union Square, I never saw it there. And hey, Andy looks like he totally belongs at the CAMH since his shiny chrome surface matches the CAMH’s shiny corrugated steel exterior.


The CAMH has two floors – the ground floor and a basement level – so there are always two exhibits going on at the same time. On the ground floor there’s “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” and downstairs the exhibit is “Unfinished Country: New Video from China,” both of which will run until mid-February 2013. The upstairs exhibit was a bit random and confusing because I wasn’t there for one of the scheduled performances, and the performative aspect is lost when only artifacts are shown. It’s an interesting topic, but I felt like there was information lacking, like the exhibit was evidence for a research paper rather than a stand-alone kinda deal. Downstairs I sat and watched some of those videos, but honestly not for very long. Found it kind of lacking.

I like the CAMH, I really do. I have fond memories of my few months working there, but … I’m not a big fan of the exhibits. It’s a small museum (really small), it doesn’t have the resources that larger museums do, and the members of its tiny staff take on multiple roles. But the CAMH isn’t about catering to the public or showing famous pieces of art. It’s about contemporary art – what’s happening in the art world out there right now – whether you like it or not. Plus, it doesn’t charge admission and it’s motto is “Always Fresh, Always Free.” I can appreciate that.

artist: nam june paik

Nam June Paik (1932-2006) was a Korean-American artist who loved television. Er … loved using televisions. In his artwork. His electronic art. Media art. Video. Yeah. Cool stuff. I had never heard about him before and granted I’m not well-versed in contemporary art or media art, but apparently he was pretty revolutionary and influential. As much as I like art, I’m not actually in the art field – does that excuse my ignorance?

This piece is “Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii” (1995) and wow, it will not be ignored. It’s one of his most famous pieces and it’s not hard to understand why. With each state outlined in bright glaring neon and filled with televisions, it’s a very eye-catching/eye-consuming piece. It’s obviously a critique on American culture’s obsession with the attention-grabbing, but it’s darn near impossible to not stand in front of it mouth agape and just stare at the moving screens for a good, long while. Also in the museum (the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC) was another piece by Paik called “Megatron/Matrix” (1995), but after spending a few minutes in that room, I felt like my eyes were going to explode.


jennifer west on the high line

Today I was in Chelsea for an interview, and I had time to kill before work in the West Village. So what’s a girl to do? I wandered around Chelsea Market for a bit and was kind of annoyed that Privé (the store that has designer sample sales) only had bedding today. Eh. But I stopped by Tuck Shop (an Australian meat pie place) for a sausage roll, so that was yummy! And then, because I was in the area, I headed over and up to the High Line.

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And whaddaya know … there was a piece of art by Jennifer West! In 2010 she had an exhibition at the CAMH and this summer when I was an intern there, I digitized the catalogue, so I recognized the name immediately. You can see the catalogue here. There was this long strip of film taped to the High Line, and this was some kind of performance art – or at least part one of it. The film was only here for today (Thursday) for people to walk across and mark it up with their shoes. Part two of the deal will be when the film is treated and then shown sometime in October.

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It’s kind of an interesting concept and it’ll be neat to see how it looks in the end. I had no idea that they were doing this today, so I was really confused at first. But for the most part it seemed pretty vanilla and most people avoided stepping on it … because they didn’t realize they were supposed to walk on it.

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In a few places there were gaps in the film (oh the horror!) probably from when someone tripped and took out parts. For the most part I didn’t walk on the film itself because it was actually kinda slippery and not the easiest to walk on. But it will be interesting since the film was on a few different textures, from the rough concrete to the smooth railroad, to the regular grate.

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I don’t really have an opinion of Jennifer West’s work because I’ve never actually seen it. Yes I’ve seen the catalogue, but since she works in moving image, I’ve never seen any of her actual work. The High Line piece is called “One Mile Parkour Film” and you can find more information about it here. I’m intrigued and will definitely be seeing the resulting film when it gets shown in October! It was kinda cool, like a New York-ified yellow brick road.

[UPDATE: I didn’t manage to attend the screening due to work, but the resulting film can be viewed online here.]