Exhibition of Marcel Duchamp Prize nominees demonstrates diversity of French art world

By He Keyao Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/16 18:08:40

Internal Medicine by Wang Du Photo: He Keyao/GT

When French art pioneer Marcel Duchamp debuted a urinal as a piece of art in 1917's Fountain, he probably never imagined that this move to encourage innovation in art would still echo strongly more than a century later in a country on the other side of the world - China.

The cross-culture exhibition of artworks by previous Marcel Duchamp Prize nominees that kicked off this week in Beijing continues to carry on the artist's creative spirit.

Bridging the Gap, held at the Tsinghua University Art Museum, highlights the concept of diversity not only in artistic forms but also in the origins and cultural backgrounds of its artists. The selection of 10 artists from or based in France opens a visual door onto the current dynamism of multifaceted French creativity for visitors.

Celebrating diversity

Ten exhibits are each displayed in its own separate space, creating different immersive "climates" that have been arranged based on each artist's art and imagination. A rich variety of creative artistic languages can be found throughout, including paintings, sculptures, videos, installation works and even interactive technology and digital networks through which these artists question the modern world and society with a critical eye.

Celebrated artwork Double Rainbow by Romanian artist Mircea Cantor, a representative figure in contemporary art, first catches visitors' eyes at the hall entrance. The large creation, which stretches meters in length, depicts two rainbows with seven fundamental and intertwining colors. These lines, made up of numerous dots that are actually the artist's fingerprints, resemble barbed-wire and so combine two opposite motifs together: the rainbow, a symbol of peace and union, and barbed-wire fences, which symbolize forbidden territory.

The sophisticated artwork inspires thoughts about identity and singularity in its response to the theme of bridging different cultures and countries through art.

Meanwhile, French artist Davide Balula, well-known for his experimental artworks and efforts to push boundaries and redefine art, explores the relationship between technology and art in the modern world through his work Coloring the WiFi Network.

For the work, the artist composed a series of antenna-sculptures made of tapered and colored metal and plastic rods, each of which emit a WiFi signal that corresponds to a particular color. Viewers can discover monochrome white, pink and yellow colors by using their smartphones to connect to the network broadcast by the artwork.

Other artworks look to do more than just inspire visitors.

In Laurent Grasso's works,  for example, the boundaries between reality and fiction, dream and illusion are vividly explored in a series of spooky artworks. His works are arranged in a dark space lit up by a bluish ghostly aura of an eye-shaped neon sign.

The untitled work takes as its basis ancient theories of vision in which the eye was perceived as a source of light.

The eye motif permeates most of Grasso's work, as the artist is interested in exploring the act of "seeing."

In his another work Satellite, French actress Carole Bouquet's eye is scrupulously examined by a film camera. Meanwhile, a little man-shaped statue stands in front of a big screen that shows what the camera sees while a single one-note sound is played in the background. All these elements create an unsettling atmosphere and turn the actress into a specimen of scientific curiosity rather than an object of traditional desire.

"The whole exhibition is like a book made up of 10 chapters. Each chapter tells a story and has its own vocabulary, yet each of them is connected to one another," Jerome Sans, art critic and curator of the exhibition, told the Global Times, emphasizing that the diversity of voices  was a key part of the show.

Universal language 

Renowned Chinese artist Wang Du's artworks are a big highlight of the exhibition. The artist is well-known for his playful sculptures and installation works that cast a critical eye over the current world and the hegemony of media.

Two works from his art series The Clinic of the World show the way in which Wang depicts the world as a patient suffering from countless diseases.

Sculpture Internal Medicine, for instance, depicts a large cat playing with a rat that lies on its back in fear.

Wang told the Global Times that the work depicts the chaos and disorder in the world, such as terrorism.

"Internal Medicine hints at the interior ministry of a country, which is responsible for providing safety, including anti-terrorism work. The work to combat terrorism is like a game of cat and mouse," said Wang.

Sans called the piece thought-provoking as it encourages people to interpret it in a multi-layered way.

"Who is going to take the lead, the rat or the cat?" Sans said, adding that this question can also be expanded to business, celebrities and other fields.

Commenting on Wang's work in general, Sans said, "He opened my eyes to another dimension."

Wang's other piece, Urology, unveils an immense screen made of copper tubes. The screen folds in on itself, concealing a wooden floor similar to a geographical map.

"It is actually an outline of a map of the Middle East and the tubes are similar to petroleum pipelines, which is like the human body's urinary system," Wang said.

Wang stressed that national or local cultural elements are not a must for Chinese artists as they are free to use a universal artistic language that goes beyond the limits of countries and regions.

Sans agreed.

"Art is like a machine that works at a universal level and is shared by the world. We use it to bridge the gap of cultural differences." 

Newspaper headline: Artistic dynamism

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