A Look Back Through Our Archives, From 1993 to 2017

Also available in:  Chinese

PETER ROBINSONUntitled, 1996, oil stick on crate, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist.

AAP 16: “Peter Robinson’s Strategic Plan,” by Robert Leonard

In the mid-1990s, Peter Robinson caught the attention of curators and collectors alike in New Zealand. One of the reasons, curator Robert Leonard explained, was Robinson’s explorations of his Māori heritage, which coincided with the country’s debates on the return of lands and economic rights that had been forcibly taken from indigenous peoples under British colonial rule. In an Essay published in 1997, Leonard explored the idea of Māoris existing in a “double bind”—disempowered yet idealized—and observed how, in that context, Robinson’s creative approach differed radically from more commercialized forms of Māori art. For example, in an untitled oilstick-on-wooden-crate work from 1996, Robinson made a naively painted checkerboard composition of black and white squares that resemble bargain sale signs, with scrawled declarations such as, “Blacks Ltd. We Pay For Your Interest,” “Buy Now, Pay Later” and “Quiet Island Retreat. Friendly Atmosphere.” Leonard posited, “These works seem to comment at once on the economic, political and cultural plight of Māori through history and the current market success enjoyed by contemporary Māori artists, for whom cultural values are stock-in-trade.” EWN

SHILPA GUPTAwww.sentiment-express.com, 2001, Installation and website, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist.

AAP 37: “Shilpa Gupta,” by Johan Pijnappel

Cassette recordings of people expressing joy, paintings made from clothes stained by menstrual blood, canvases blessed by holy men—these are some of the projects that Shilpa Gupta created in the 1990s and early 2000s. In an Essay on the Mumbai-based artist’s practice, curator Johan Pijnappel contextualized Gupta’s works as critical takes on India’s new consumerist society, one in the throes of globalization and in thrall to the new fast lanes of the worldwide web. Gupta’s technological savvy and humorous satire coalesce in the love-letter ordering service with deliveries by mermaids or hostesses, sentiment-express.com (2001), typically shown in the exhibition context on a single desktop computer. Pijnappel also explored Gupta’s perspectives around the place of women in society, noting that the sectarian violence of 1992–93 in Mumbai took place during the artist’s student days at the Sir JJ School of Art, and cited Rummana Hussain and Nalini Malani as established artists whose works of the time made powerful feminist statements. In one untitled installation work from 2001, Gupta fashioned together clothing that women had used, at the artist’s request, to absorb menstrual blood. Wrestling with the flux of Indian society and art-making itself, at the time Gupta embodied a post-conceptual, post-studio and post-national position as an artist—even if those terms hadn’t come into being just yet. HGM

SHI XINNINGAt the Anonymous Mountain, 2006, Oil on canvas, 179 × 359 cm. Courtesy Beijing East-8 Strategic Consulting Company.

AAP 55: “The Case of the Readymade Mountain,” by Chin-Chin Yap

One day in 1995, a group of artists stripped naked and stacked their bodies horizontally on a mountaintop, in an experiment that aimed to, metaphorically, alter the topography of a fixed landscape. The resulting photograph To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain (1995), is by now an iconic work in Chinese contemporary art history. However, the legal authority of the ten artists—which include Zhang Huan and Cang Xin—over ensuing sales of the photograph, as contributor Chin-Chin Yap argues in her Essay, presents a conundrum. The image cannot be logically divided into ten equal parts and thus, under the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China, the rights are jointly held. Using hypothetical scenarios, she illustrates real-life tensions in ownership and intellectual property that form the mercurial terrain of Chinese contemporary art: “Duchamp might have relished the unresolved case of the Mountain copyright as a true artistic coup: a conceptual gambit that, unwittingly but brilliantly, subverted the very legal structures that society enacted for the autonomy of artists.” YC

KIM BEOMObjects Being Taught They Are Nothing But Tools, 2010, Installation with daily objects, miniature wooden chairs, chalkboard, television monitor and video: 21 min 8 sec. Courtesy the artist.

AAP 78: “Kim Beom: Open the Most with the Least,” by Han Keum Hyun

From the late 1980s to the early ’90s, South Korean multimedia artist Kim Beom was studying and living in New York. His early paintings, produced during this period, were playful pokes at the artifices of the two-dimensional plane; later, investigating how images are understood through their contexts, he began to deconstruct videos, such as in the well-known Untitled (News) (2002), where he pieced together fictional 100-second stories from actual news clips. In a Feature on Kim, independent curator and critic Han Keum Hyun traced the many ways in which the mischievous artist toys with visual and textual semiotics. The installation Objects Being Taught They Are Nothing But Tools (2010) features dozens of household items “watching” a video lecture by a male figure about how they need not aspire to be more than simple devices. Here, Kim highlights how we have been taught to affix certain meanings and values to objects through traditional education systems, prompting viewers to question—in Han’s words—“What is involved in what we see? And after all is said and done: what is it that we actually see?” CC

MELATI SURYODARMOI Love You, 2007, Photo documentation of performance at eBent 07 Festival, Barcelona, 2007. Photo by Angel Vilà. Courtesy the artist.

AAP 106: “Melati Suryodarmo: The World Within,” by Eva McGovern-Basa

Melati Suryodarmo’s often wordless performances gradually reveal their emotional power through the absurdity of futile actions repeated over long durations. As independent curator Eva McGovern-Basa explains in her Feature, the artist’s body is a focal point in her practice, a vessel expressing notions of struggle, powerlessness, resistance and loss. In I Love You (2007), Suryodarmo, dressed in a black suit and high heels, carries a large pane of glass around a red-painted room, intermittently repeating “I love you” to no one in particular. When first performed, I Love You conveyed the emotional fragility of a woman in love, and the limits of language in human relationships. A decade later, AAP selected an image of this performance for the cover of the November/December issue to illustrate the accomplishments of women in the arts, just as the #MeToo movement was coalescing, with the public disclosure of the burdens that women carry bringing new and darker interpretations to the work. OL

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