JOYCE HO, A Day at FY Foundation, 2017, video installation: 6 min 7 sec. Courtesy the Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation.

Everything You Need to Know about the FY Foundation: An Exhibition

You Space

“Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation (FYF) was established in 2015. The foundation is devoted to the education and research of avant-garde and conceptual art across the world . . .”

If you walk into the You Space in Shenzhen and pick up the handset on the wall, you will experience Joyce Ho’s video installation titled A Day at FY Foundation (2017), with an adjacent screen showing a woman introducing the organization behind the show. It’s certainly effective.

FYF’s first project in the beginning of each year is now centered around its collection. This time around, FYF has tapped Biljana Ciric, an independent curator based in Shanghai, to helm the project. Ciric is a very active international figure in the Chinese contemporary art world. She was on the panel of the first Hugo Boss Art Asia Award in 2013, and curated the exhibition “Encounters with Pompidou,” which was part of the “Museum On/Off” exhibition mounted under the theme of whether it is possible to remain independent within today’s art system, held in the world renowned Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2016. As she focuses mainly on academic research, her curatorial approach is not simply choosing the works from the collection for display, but rather to use it as an opportunity to “reframe the collection through its inherent opportunities for unexpected encounter[s],” and provide “new readings and understandings of what the collection consists of and is about.”

The exhibition not only features a strong roster of international artists, including Joyce Ho, Lee Kit, Li Liao, Danh Vō, Guo Xi and Zhang Jianling, Liam Gillick, Tracey Emin and Yang Xinguang, but also identifies the first three (Ho, Lee and Li) as hosts. In fact, for all practical purposes, these three artists played the roles of associate curators when mounting the show.

LEE KIT, Conference Room, 2017, emulsion paint on glass, print on paper, dimensions variable. Courtesy the Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation.

TRACEY EMIN, I Cried Because I Love You, 2016, neon lights, 80 × 200.5 × 4.8 cm. Courtesy the Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation.

The arrangement paid off excellently. They transformed an office into an integrated environment, in which the artworks merged seamlessly with the working environment, where they appear as both decorative objects and art on display. Two of the examples would be Tracey Emin’s neon light installation I Cried Because I Love You (2016) and Lee Kit’s Conference Room (2017), which were both placed on glass dividers that separate office areas. Beside Ho’s introductory video, she has another piece titled Un-Covered (2017), which is a bookshelf of exhibition catalogues with all the covers shrouded by white paper. Visitors are invited to draw on the paper while reading the books. On one of the office walls, Yang Xinguang has recreated his “painting” Abstract (2017). The concept of this work is based on a play on the Chinese translation of the word “abstract,” or chouxiangchou means whip, hence the tool Yang used to create the image, which is xiang in Chinese. Yang’s sarcastic take is especially playful in this office setting. Firstly, it reminds the viewer of the boss, who oversees the office’s workload and might “whip” employees into action. Secondly, as an ephemeral work found on a wall, it fits perfectly with the curatorial intention of how physical environments can challenge the nature of an artwork: In a corporate setting, has this piece of art been rendered as mere decoration?

YANG XINGUANG, Abstract, 2017, dimensions variable. Courtesy the Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation.

A hidden gem in the exhibition was Li Liao’s Extra Person (2016/17), a site-specific, performative work. Li had put out recruitment ads with the human resources department of the FYF to hire an extra person for the duration of the exhibition. The job was very simple: be in the office on time and do nothing except fit in. As it turned out, the first applicant who got the internship quit after only one day because he “couldn’t cope with the boredom,” and the second one quit because he received a job offer from another company. Li amused and challenged us, just as he has done in past works. He led us to question the corporative recognition that is deeply integrated in us. Indeed, it was a smart move.

Everything You Need to Know about the FY Foundation: An Exhibition” is on view at You Space, Shenzhen, until June 23, 2017.

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LI LIAO, Extra Person, 2016, live work. Courtesy the Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation.