May 13 2014

Shop Till You Drop: Supermarket by MadeIn

by Marybeth Stock

Supermarket (2007), a Xu Zhen by MadeIn Company production at ShanghART, Singapore, 2014. All photos courtesy of ShanghART, Singapore.

Shanghai-based MadeIn Company is the brainchild of Chinese artist Xu Zhen who, in 2009, subsumed himself into what is ostensibly a strictly commercial company that produces and sells art. Established as a saucy rejoinder to all things “Made in China,” MadeIn is also a rebuke to the prepackaged mechanics of the contemporary Chinese art market. Its works are ambitious and conceptually provoking—including performance, sculpture, video, photography, internet art and painting, as well as research and curation.

Rows of empty products line the shelves, a commentary on rampant comsumerism.

ShanghART gallery in Singapore is currently exhibiting one of MadeIn’s most absorbing provocations. ShanghART Supermarket (2007) is a fully operational convenience store that might easily have been plucked straight off the streets of Shanghai. Its shelves are stocked with authentic products that have been emptied of their contents and then perfectly re-sealed. Instant noodles, cigarettes, snacks, ice-cream, drinks and more are all available at local Shanghai prices. To punctuate the effect, CCTV security cameras and shoplifter mirrors have been mounted on the walls.

A colorful array of juice bottles, yogurt containers and milk cartons entices viewers to indulge.

Supermarket was first presented at Art Basel in Miami in 2007 and seven years later it continues to engage viewers with its shrewd, disingenuous humor. Aside from obvious jabs at China’s ongoing safety issues with food, and the blatant consumerism inherent in collecting art today, Supermarket waggishly appeals to personal tastes while disarming the viewer with its familiar, standardized displays. It’s all too easy to fall into Supermarket’s ersatz clutches. Xu goads us into buying into his (literally) empty symbolism, offering in return a true certificate of authenticity: a MadeIn Company receipt.

A customer makes a purchase and receives in return an authentic MadeIn Company receipt.

Supermarket will be on view at ShanghART through May 18, 2014.

Marybeth Stock is a writer, researcher and editor based in Singapore and Japan.