For the last art project, one of my classmates in IB Art did a performance art piece.
The work was performed in one of the studio rooms on the performance arts hallway and people were invited to watch the show after school at 3:30.
When I entered the room, there were a rectangular canvas on the wall and white sheets of paper laid out on the floor. On the sides of the wall were two white tables, each with white glue or white paint and some materials like palette knives, big brushes, and a white mask.
At about 3:35, the artist, wearing a white mask, began pouring the white glue/paint on the flat canvas, letting the medium drip to the floor. The room was dark lit, so the whole area where the artist was standing and painting seemed very bright in contrast. After pouring a fairly large amount of the material on the canvas, she grabbed some large brush to smooth out the white paint on the white canvas. And then she began pouring more and more paint, and started using other things like the palette knife and the white mask to smooth out the paint on the canvas. It was a strange thing to see the artist obsessively paint the white canvas with white paint because from where the viewers were standing, there seemed to be no change in how the canvas looked.
About halfway through the process, the artist began taking volunteers to paint the canvas with her. She stayed silent throughout the whole performance, so she just went up to a viewer and signaled with her hand to tell them to stand up and follow her to the canvas. The artist gave the equipments to the volunteer and made her paint the canvas however she wanted, but with white paint.
Towards the end of the performance, the artist's movement looked more violent, and the viewers could hear the artist panting and obsessively repeating the process of pouring the paint and smoothing the paint out. By the end of the performance, the part of the floor where the artist was standing was covered in paint, and very slippery to stand on. The artist often slipped, but she didn't seem to care at all. The canvas stayed white throughout the performance art.
At the end, the artist lied down on the floor, facing down. It seemed as if she has given up on painting but she also looked like she was in pain.
Seeing the work made me think about insecurities I have. The way the artist tried to use different equipments to cover the canvas with white paint reminded me of the ways that I can get so obsessive with things that I am not confident with. I do my best to cover my flaws, but when I think about it, I can never really "cover my flaws" because that is just part of myself. No matter how hard I try, it's still going to show through.
And the piece gave me time and the opportunity to think about how I always tend to look for what I'm lacking instead of what I already have. And if I continue to do the same, I probably "burn out" like how the artist collapsed to the floor at the end of the performance. The work really made me realize that I should take more time to appreciate what I have, what I already have accomplished and who I am already because.. it's just who I am and I can't change that.
It's great that I got the opportunity to see this piece, especially in this stressful time of the college process, because I don't often get time to think about things like this at home or at school. It also gave me an inspiration to consider performance art for my next IB art piece.
There are few more galleries that I visited during the art class field trip to 798 about 2 weeks ago.
We only had about an hour to go around all the places we wanted to go, so each visit was very brief- but here are some of the pictures from the trip.
My friend and I visited a gallery called the Tang Gallery to see stones curved in the shapes of chinese characters. The stones made up phrases and sentences that the viewers can read from the second floor.
I can't really read what the text actually means, but the round font and the inclusion of email addresses makes the piece look like it is some kind of advertisement. Maybe it's the text from a poster or on a label on a product.
Either way, I wonder why the artist decided to use hard stones to curve these letters out of.
Last Thursday, I went on a school art field trip to the 798.
We first went to UCCA to look at the Paweł Althamer's Venetians and the Draftsmen's Congress. I didn't know this until the day after the school trip, when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, but the Draftsmen's congress was finally taken down on Friday after long 3 months at the Nave. When I saw the image of the pieces of the painted walls scattered on the also painted floor, I honestly got a little emotional because I spent so much time of my summer strolling around in the Draftsmen's congress, making sure that all the paints are filled and the cups filled with clean water. Paweł Althamer created this installation piece to create a space where the visitors can freely interact with each other through the museum space; for me, though, it was more like I've formed a connection with, not what people on the walls, but the space itself.
It's so sad to see you go Draftsmen's Congress, but, honestly, I'm already excited for Los Angeles Project, which is coming up in September!
After visiting the UCCA briefly, the art students had free time of one hour to explore 798 on their own. I got to see several exhibitions at galleries during this hour and got so excited that I came back a day after, on the Friday afternoon, to visit all the exhibitions that I was interested in, which I'll blog about throughout the week.
The first gallery that I went to on Thursday afternoon was the 798 Art Bridge Gallery. It's about diagonal to the UCCA, so I did know the gallery existed but I had never really visited this gallery because it never looked particularly interesting. But this time, I decided to go visit. The current exhibition at this gallery was of the artist, Liu Fei.
All of his works, from glazed sculptures to oil paintings, have bald women dressed in school uniforms. All the women have identical expression, a grin that is just so scary. Although the women's lips are "grinning," the women's eyes are not laughing, at all- if you were to cover the upper part of the women's faces, you would think they were laughing but if you were to cover the lower half, they would look dead serious. The images of women with that facial expression holding a variety of weapons just made me feel very uncomfortable being there. Personally, I didn't really like this exhibition because the style of this artist's paintings just makes me very nervous and put me in unease. I often hear that the best artists elicit strong emotional response from the audience, but I wonder if this kind of emotion counts. Sure, it is a "strong emotional response" but does good art make the audience uncomfortable in this kind of way? I definitely agree that making the audience feel uncomfortable for a purpose helps the artist communicate his/her idea better, but I couldn't really see the artist's purpose in making the audience this uncomfortable. Or maybe it was just me who felt this uneasy being in that exhibition. I don't know.
The interesting thing was that this artist's works actually reminded me of one of my favorite artists, Yue Minjun. He is known for illustrating laughing naked man running around with huge grin and about 4000 teeth. His works are very strange too, and it sure makes the audience uncomfortable to a certain extent. But I feel like his message comes across a bit more clearer and doesn't leave the viewers confused.
What do you think about the effect of discomfort in art? To what extent does it make the art "better?"