Riding The Current: New Show at Shanghai K11 Spotlights Dialogue in Contemporary Art
Slime Engine, Ocean, 2019, interactive game, projection, controller, console, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist. Installation view in “Breaking the Waves” at chi K11 art museum, Shanghai, 2021. Image courtesy of K11 Art Foundation.
[Left to Right]: Wolfgang Tillmans, Munuwata sky, 2011, 242 x 162 cm; young man Jeddah, b, 2021, 138 x 207 cm. From the series Neue Welt, 2021, 10 inkjet prints, clips, dimensions variable. Courtesy of Galerie Bucholz. Installation view in “Breaking the Waves” at chi K11 art museum, Shanghai, 2021. Image courtesy of K11 Art Foundation.
[Left to Right]: Eisa Jocson, Superwoman KTV, 2019, video installation, digital video with colour and sound, 8 min; Becoming Snow White, 2018, digital videos (Princess Parade, 26 min 8 sec; House, 10 min 58 sec), colouring sheets. Courtesy the artist. Installation view in “Breaking the Waves” at chi K11 art museum, Shanghai, 2021. Image courtesy of K11 Art Foundation.
Michael Joo, Circannual Rhythm (pibloktok), 2003–05, three-channel video projection with colour and sound, 8 min. Courtesy the artist. Installation view in “Breaking the Waves” at chi K11 art museum, Shanghai, 2021. Image courtesy of K11 Art Foundation.
A new group show at K11’s Shanghai outpost brings to the forefront the importance of dialogue and discussion in the practice of contemporary art. Presented by K11 Art Foundation and curated by ArtReview, the exhibition features a star-studded roster of international artists and art collectives, the show envisions new futures and possibilities that art is uniquely placed to offer.
TEXT: CoBo Editorial
IMAGES: Courtesy of K11 Art Foundation
As the world slowly re-emerges from pandemic hibernation, the past year and a half of isolation has brought about an acute awareness of the importance of dialogue in our relationship with the world at large. “Breaking The Waves”, as vivid as it literally sounds, is an exhibition that brings together the works of 14 artists and artist collectives from around the world, to explore dialogue and discussion as fundamental concepts for the contemporary art experience, and highlighting the role of communication and social interaction in contemporary artistic practice.
Curated by London-based art magazine ArtReview and presented by K11 Art Foundation, the show explores the potential of art as a means for development, communication and contact, and how connection to the world can be made through different mediums. According to the curatorial statement, the name of the exhibition, “Breaking the Waves”, refers “both to persistence, and the endlessly repeating climax of waves breaking on a shore, and to the act of swimming against the tide, or coming up for air”. The show is a celebration of art in all its candour.
The artworks on view are arranged to show mutual influence, as if each artist and their works are put into conversation, tackling the duality of the relationship between human and nature; issues of mobility and migration, the advancement of new technologies, and more. In a time of isolation, the show brings about a hopeful vision for what art is able to inspire, and an alternative lens through which to perceive the world.
Here we’ve rounded up some of our favourite artworks:
Wolfgang Tillmans, Neue Welt (New World) (2012)
German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans has been experimenting with different ways of approaching photography to address the fundamental question of what image-making means in an increasingly image-saturated world. For this exhibition, 10 photographs from his photography series, Neue Welt (New World) (2012), are scattered throughout different locations in the exhibition space. The body of work is, in the words of the artist, an investigation into “how the world actually appears when seen at a distance from my usual beaten path”, presenting a close inquiry into how the world has changed in diverse ways more than two decades after Tillmans first began photographing it. From the basement garages of Tasmania, Australia, to the chaotic streets of India, Tillman’s captivating visual journey is a reflection of a curious and restless soul.
Larry Achiampong, Beyond the Substrata (2020)
British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong’s 16-minute short film Beyond the Substrata was developed during his residency with Waltham Forest Council in the UK. Filmed in an empty supermarket in London, the artist uses this symbolic space of surveillance and consumerism
as a point to investigate the lurking political and social issues in east London that span race, class, gender and gentrification. A performer, clothed in black, slides and spins in choreographed movements down the empty aisles while a narrator in the background questions the politicisation of and violence forced upon the Black body.
Eisa Jocson, Super Woman KTV (2019) and Becoming White (2018)
In a separate space carved out within the exhibition, a karaoke room has been built for Filipino choreographer and dancer Eisa Jocson’s Super Woman KTV. In her work, Jocson investigates the labour and representation of the body in service and entertainment industries—from pole dancers to hostesses and macho dancers—through the socio-political lens of her home country Philippines. Superwoman KTV stars Filipino Superwoman Band (of which Jocson is a member) performing a choreographed sequence to the song Superwoman, originally sung by American singer Karyn White in 1989 and later popularised in the Philippines by Filipino singer Janine Desidario with her rendition Hindi Ako si Darna(I am not a superwoman), which tells the story of the struggles faced by the country’s migrant workers.
In another work on view, Becoming White, Jocson looks at “happiness” through the archetypal Disney princess figure. The work, which was first exhibited at the 2018 Bangkok Biennale, involves a mix of performance, archival materials, video and sound installation. Jocson choreographed a dance performance inspired by the migrant Filipino workers in Hong Kong, more specifically, those who are working as performers in Hong Kong Disneyland. In a theme park that prides itself as “the happiest place on earth”, happiness becomes formatted routines for these entertainers as they repeat daily performances of “happiness”.
Michael Joo, Circannual Rhythm (pibloktok), 2003
Mounted on the walls across Jocson’s Becoming White is multimedia artist Michael Joo’s three-screen digital video installation Circannual Rhythm (pibloktok). The video follows the artist’s 18-day trek along the Dalton Highway, which parallels the Trans-Alaska pipeline. Through barren lands, to lush alpine greens and snow-tipped mountains, the three distinct video segments feature themes of time and decay, physical versus metaphysical, sociological versus psychological, corruption/consumption and revelation.
Slime Engine, Ocean, 2019
The exhibition ends with a first-person perspective art game by Shanghai-based artist collective Slime Engine. Ocean was first created as a hybrid online/offline exhibition that resembles a video game experience. Dubbed “an exhibition within an exhibition”, the immersive art viewing experience is set in the middle of a virtual body of water, with videos, sculptures, photographs, and other works of art by more than 100 artists hovering above the ocean’s surface, while the viewers navigate their way between them. A fun, interactive twist on the traditional art viewing experience, Slime Engine’s exploration of the digital space makes a fitting end for the exhibition through its proposition of what a post-physical art world may hold for us in the near future.