The article and photos are provided by the exhibition artist Tian Hui and quotered from the frieze.com

Chen Tong & Tian Hui: What Might it Mean to ‘Think Like a Mall’?

A double solo show in a luxury Shenzhen shopping mall poses questions about the spectacle-driven nature of the space it occupies


The O’Plaza mall at OCT Harbour is one of Shenzhen’s many luxury shopping destinations. Intentionally derailing attempts to traverse it in a straight shot, its strategically placed escalators, mirrored surfaces and false exits lead visitors to crisscross its floors and offerings. Along this glittering axis are the 20 carefully placed vitrines comprising Boxes Art Space. 

Founded in 2013 by the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and an unnamed commercial partner, Boxes Art Space rests on the assertion that ‘the art exhibition and economic consumption can exist together.’ The gallery’s curator, Fan Bo, notes that our habits and tastes are subconsciously formed through consumption; one aim of the project is thus to parse the patented narratives of luxury and question their motives. This gallery model has been pursued by others, most notably Adrian Cheng, who recently opened the fourth of his K11 Art Malls in Guangzhou. But what Boxes Art Space seems to offer – which other mall galleries have lacked – is a reflexive and critical lens on the mall itself, rather than simply seeing it as a glitzy analogue to the so-called white cube. Chen Tong and Tian Hui’s exhibition, ‘Overall Situation’, overtly gestures at the broader economic history underwriting this commercial context, alluding, respectively, to the opening up of the Pearl River Delta region and the rise of financialization.

Boxes Art Space’s open plan harnesses the meandering layout of O’Plaza. At the main entrance, the first ‘box’ makes for a bold introduction. An empty vitrine bearing a quote from Karl Marx is part of New York-based artist Tian Hui’s series ‘Psychological Counselling Proposal for the Capitalist Sweet Life’. Taking as its starting point the 2007–08 worldwide financial crisis, it comprises several empty vitrines inscribed with quotes, often gathering dust within them, alongside others showcasing drawings of politicians, philosophers, economists and revolutionary theorists – the authors of our current financial situation. The empty boxes seem as much a part of Tian’s message as those in which portraits are placed at odds with the conventions of display (hung on the ceiling or laying on the floor). Emptiness is presented as resistance to the commodification of space, while the child-like quality of Tian’s drawings alludes to the episodic nature of economy, in which our current moment will soon be historicized.

Shown alongside Tian’s work is that of veteran Guangzhou artist and writer Chen Tong, whose various activities include running Libreria Borges and the video-art archive Video Bureau. At Boxes Art Space, Chen also proves himself to be a screenwriter. Based on the first chapter of his eponymous novel, the series ‘Oi Kwan Hotel’ takes the form of a spy thriller, with each box containing the setting for a subsequent scene. The story centres around the Canton Fair, the oldest and largest trade fair in China; it is symbolic for its role in the establishment of Deng Xiaoping’s special economic zones, through which China first opened its doors to foreign investment. The Oi Kwan Hotel, an art deco building that was once the tallest in southern China, has hosted the opening and closing receptions of the fair since its inception in 1957.

The two series culminate in the main gallery on the rooftop of the mall. Chen’s storyboard is depicted through a series of ink paintings, while Tian’s sketches are further swathed in quotations. With their thoughtfully developed narratives, both works demonstrate a commitment to long-term research; their situation within the mall challenges the space’s typically fragmentary, spectacle-driven configuration. At the same time, the show inevitably draws attention to commerce-deficit spaces and serves effectively to occupy the last possible sites of indeterminacy that a mall can provide. In this way, it runs the risk of merely adding cultural capital where capital is already rife. But perhaps these various commercial ecologies, when considered side by side, allow the exhibition to pose questions about our broader social environment. Might they ask, in the words of environmental philosopher Steven Vogel, what it might mean to ‘think like a mall’?

Chen Tong & Tian Hui   runs at Boxes Art Space, O'Plaza Mall, Shenzen, until 10 August.


陈侗和田挥 :“ 像购物中心一样思考 ” 是什么意思 ?

深圳一家豪华购物中心举办了一场双人个展,人们不禁要问,它所占据的空间是什么样子? 位于华侨港的欧广场购物中心是深圳众多奢侈品购物目的地之一。它精心布置的自动扶梯、镜面反射的表面和假出口使游客在地面和产品上来回穿梭。沿着这条闪闪 发光的轴线,有 20 个精心布置的玻璃罩,其中包括盒子艺术空间。

Ox Art Space 由广州美术学院 (Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts) 于 2013 年成立,是一家不知名的商业合作伙伴。该公司的宗旨是 “ 艺术展览和经济消费可以共存 ” 。美术馆馆长范博 ( 音译 ) 指出,我们的习惯和品味是通过消费在潜意识中形成的 ; 因此该项目的目的之一是解析奢侈品的专利叙事,并质疑它们的动机。这一画廊模式一到其他人的追捧,其中最著名的是郑志刚 (Adrian Cheng) ,他最近在广州开设了 K11 艺术中心的第四家。但盒子艺术空间所提供的 ── 其他购物中心画廊所缺乏的 ── 是对购物中心本身的反射和批判,而不是简单地将其视为所谓的 “ 白色立方体 ”的耀眼类比。陈侗和田挥的展览《  大环境》 (Overall Situation) ,在更广阔的经济历史背景下为这一商业背景提供了支持,分别暗示了珠江三角洲地区的开放和金融化的兴起。

艺术空间的开放式布局利用了奥广场的蜿蜒布局。在大门处,第一个 “ 盒子 ” 作了大胆的介绍。这是纽约艺术家田挥的系列作品《资本主义甜蜜生活的心理咨询方案》的一部分。它以 2007-08 年全球金融危机  为创作动机,包括几个空的玻璃空间,上面镌刻着名言,里面常常积满灰尘,还有一些玻璃瓶展示着影响了我们当前金融形势政治家、哲学家、经济学家和革命理论家的画作。这些空盒子似乎是田挥的信息的一部分,就像那些肖像与展览的惯例 ( 悬挂在天花板上或躺在地板上 ) 格格不入一样。空虚表现为对空间商品化的抵制,而田挥的儿童般的绘画品质暗示了经济的情景性,在这种情景性中,我们当前的时刻将很快被历史化。

与田挥的作品一起展出的是广州资深艺术家兼作家陈侗的作品,陈侗的各种活动包括经营 “ 博尔赫斯图书馆 ”(Libreria Borges) 和 “ 影像艺术档案局 ”(Video-art Archive Video Bureau) 。在 box Art Space ,陈侗也证明了自己是一个编剧。根据同名小说的第一章,这部电视剧《爱关酒店》采用了间谍惊悚片的形式,每个盒子里都有一个场景。故事围绕广交会展开,广交会是中国历史最悠久、规模最大的商品交易会 ; 它的象征意义在于它在建立邓小平经济特区过程中发挥的作用,通过这个特区,中国首次向外国投资敞开了大门。艺术装饰风格的爱群酒店 (Oi Kwan Hotel) 曾是中国南方最高的建筑,自 1957 年上海世博会开幕以来,一直在举办开幕和闭幕招待会。

这两个系列在商场顶层的主展厅达到高潮。陈侗的故事板是通过一系列水墨画来描绘的,而田挥的素描则被进一步的引用文本所包围。通过他们深思熟虑的叙事,这两部作品都表明了对长期研究的结果 ; 他们在商场里的处境挑战了这个空间典型的支离破碎、引人注目的布局。与此同时,这场展览不可避免地引起了人们对商业赤字空间的关注,并有效地占领了商场所能提供的不确定性场所。这样一来,它就有可能只是增加文化资本,而资本已经很普遍了。但是,也许这些不同的商业生态,当 我们把它们放在一起考虑的时候,会让展览对我们更广阔的社会环境提出问题。用环境哲学家史蒂文 · 沃格尔 (Steven Vogel) 的话来说,他们可能会问, “ 像购物中心一样思考 ” 是什么意思 ?

陈侗和田挥在深圳购物中心的 box Art Space 展览,直到2018年 8 月 10 日结束。本文由田挥翻译并提供










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