Sunday, November 7, 2010

Void on Fire: On Nadim Abbas' works

photo courtesy of the artist

Void on Fire

Venus Lau

“The fire runs, and hollers on the blank page”

Liu Wai Tong, “Mysticism, a Song of Failure”

Telling stories with the body itself, narrative cannot avoid the trajectory of moving from one door (material or imaginary) to another, walking or rushing between being and becoming, presence and absence. The window, which constitutes one of the primary moments of imagery in the visual language of Nadim Abbas, acts to interpret the door, demonstrating its dialectics of inside/outside without bringing it into ontological existence. For Abbas, the window is sometimes a gasp voiced in the midst of a confrontation between mirror images and sometimes a fountain of bliss for the voyeur. One portion of the installation “I Would Prefer Not To”(2009) is a line of windows formed by dark glass mounted with window grates. In “Untitled” (2000), the viewer is seduced to look through a window into a boxlike white room without doors. “Perspective Studies” (2001) places wheelchairs, light, and windows in a set intended to test the viability of optical illusions, the black-and-white checkered floor twisted nauseatingly out of space.

This interest in windows also extends to the grates and frames so ubiquitous throughout the city-scapes of of Hong Kong and South China. “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Again” (2007) represents yet another attempt to interact with the possibilities of the window, here in the form of a sound installation making explicit reference to Marcel Duchamp. The work develops strata of signification, juxtaposing a porn magazine clipping resembling Duchamp's “Étant donnés,” window grates framing images of waterfalls, and a chair covered with cacti.

Within the household, the installation of window grates is typically intended to either prevent robbery or avoid small children falling out--these different aims that are actually one: the prohibition of traversal (through the window). Abbas further consolidates this interdiction by hanging his window frames on solid walls, a limit in contact with the rejection of continuity. Abbas is not, of course, the first person to transform observations of these grates into art. Mainland Chinese artist Liu Chuang's “Split Landscape” (2005) marks a similar such interrogation of the spatial functions of such extensions to the window, extracting the visual elements of a three-dimensional cage-like grate form once popular in Shenzhen and turning it into a stainless steel sculpture with a highly formalized and flattened visual presentation. This same object clearly serves different purposes in the practices of these two artists: Liu is concerned with researching a geometric aesthetic of the grate as an image by peeling it off from the functionality of the defensive structure, while Abbas displaces the windows in order to dissolve the dialectics of inside/outside through a discontinuity in visual perception raised by a physical aluminum veil. The window, here, is like a ship--Foucault's heterotopia par excellence--a “placeless place ... closed in on itself and at the same time ... given over to the infinity of the sea” (Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”). It goes nowhere and everywhere.

Besides the window, the figure of the Rorschach test image makes a significant appearance in the practice of Nadim Abbas. The window grate patterns from “I Would Prefer Not To” actually correspond to ten strictly symmetrical inkblots from the Rorschach, while “Untitled (14-03)” (2010) consists of a set of drawings mingling the outlines of such inkblots with the floor plans of apartments in Hong Kong in which there occurred a homicide or suicide on 14 March within the past 15 years. This project creates an imaginary non-space defined only by absence. Less obviously, example “Ornament and Crime” (2008) involves an installation constructed out of white pipes through which observers roll ceramic fengshui balls before smashing on the floor. The symmetrical design of the pipes here certainly resonates with the Rorschach test images, if remotely. Abbas makes reference to clinical psychology again in “I Would Prefer Not To,” another component of which is a specimen box of different manga action figures intended to correspond with MCMI-III (Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III) disorders. In comparison with the hype of psychoanalysis adopted as cultural theory in the art world, Abbas is far more concerned with psychopathology. The body, which Schilling calls an “unfinished biological and social project,” is manipulated and fragmented by the clinical gaze, while psychology expands and limits the possible dimensions of the subject through language. Here, art cuts into the human body without the presence of the latter.

Nadim Abbas’s latest project, “Cataract” (2010), is consistent with a certain obsession with windows and grates, including a light box highlighting an image of a waterfall (similar to that used in “The Bride Stripped Bare”). But this is only half of the project: the other half is a continuously running shower system within an environment making reference to a certain filmic anxiety, mirroring the imagery of the waterfall in a different register. The continuous artificial waterfalls may resemble the cylindrical lamp depicting the Iguazu Falls that features prominently in Wong Kar-wai's movie Happy Together, or perhaps the digital fengshui calenders mass-produced in mainland China, typically consisting of a large light box occupied by a lush landscape or Buddhist images on one side and digital clock on the other. It would be overly hasty, however, to cloak this work in the narrative fabric of social criticism related to the extremes of Fordist production modes or clichéd cinematic reference.

The title of this project relates the imagery of the waterfall with a pun, a linguistic forking path. Semiotically and physically, as translucent water is beat into a milky color by virtue of its own velocity, the project speaks in opacity. But opacity, from the window grates that divide the fabricated continuity of an imagined landscape to pieces of dark glass, deformed floor plans, and inkblot images, far from acting to block vision, can actually open up space for new interpretations of the phenomenology of space. This space, however, is never as simple as a large void or volume to be filled with whatever appears. Opacity in some ways wipes out the visual markers of certain objects while producing new schematics of signification and metaphors, but, on the other hand, it also provides a “universalized process of recognition” (Slavoj Zizek, “The Matrix, or the Two Sides of Perversion”) for the viewer--quite similar, in fact, to the function of the Rorschach test. For Nadim Abbas, the production of the space of possible symbolic engineering is a fire that simultaneously burns down and lights up its object; the singularity of space is always followed by vanishing, remaining in an unavoidable moments of becoming or morphing into a new and ephemeral appearance.

周俊辉: 衍生的衍生





Venus Lau

白立方式的展场内尽是画布上的金甲干戈、锦绣绫罗,带来的重量感犹如将倾玉山。周俊辉的第四次个展展出其新作品,再一次展示艺术家的签名式:截取电影场景(连同字幕和荧幕的黑边)的绘画。周的前作聚焦于以现代为背景的电影,如《无间道》、《纵横四海》和《英雄本色》。《衍生的衍生》作品的蓝本则来自古装电影,包括《唐伯虎点秋香》、《投名状》、《济公》、《霸王别姬》、《倚天屠龙记之魔教教主》等。新作品仍呼应艺术家一直关注的主题:《唐伯虎点秋香:没天分就不要画》表达的对艺术本身的诘问、《孔子:天下莫柔弱于水》(该句实来自《道德经》)陈述的哲学主题、《新半斤八两:繁荣盛世度度有金执》(2008)揭示的政治和香港人的身份认同问题。新作还增加了一个维度 - “衍生的衍生”,如《帝女花:将柳荫当做芙蓉帐》以电影《帝女花》为蓝本,该电影改编自同名粤剧,以明末长平公主的故事为创作灵感。《三国:不如弃子而取胜》(2009)的场景来自改编《三国演义》的《三国之见龙卸甲》。电影历史或文学人物带来的想象造就陈述,进而引发各种文本如粤剧和电影的生产。这些具有互文性的衍生物,像水晶棱面不断在自身和其身处的符号系统之间折射光线,一如早期摄影上过度曝光的虹影,以纯视觉体验消除某些历史的框线。

在 “超级真实”的世界,处处充斥没有指向的指向,若以复制/元件的二元对立来看待周俊辉对电影场景的“重置”,实在过分轻率,展览的题目(虽然英文用的字眼是“reproduction”)也在“衍生”一词上做文章,而非以忠实为本的“复制”。其实周俊辉的绘画并不以忠实重现细节和延展视觉为目的。作品不是复制,反而更像翻译,把作为热媒介的电影,转化为随时可以重阅的冷媒介,打破被叙述时间的牵引。翻译总是让人沉迷于“中心信息“是否准确传达。但周俊辉的作品一如永未完成的巴别塔,告知观者翻译不存在什么准确,只从新印证语言的异质性和随机性。

除了借用古装片创作,周俊辉新作的特点来自画面的光泽感,这在展场射灯光下尤为明显。另一方面,新作画面明显较早期作品精细。这种美学转变并不单源于艺术家的笔触实验,画面从粗糙到精细的过度,道出香港视听媒介从VCD到DVD的转变,也阐述了当今图像经济学的等级系统:高解像度是进入图像经济体系的本钱,解像度低的“烂图” (Hito Steyerl口中的poor image)只能在体系外围打转,成为该制度的无产阶级。科技实现观众对高解像度和清晰的不断追求,以致各种媒介成为以视觉快感争夺注意力的战场。



幽灵证据 (Spectral Evidence) 1a Space


2010.07.15 - 2010.09.05

展覽标题在香烛铺成行成市的香港,确实引人注目。展覽的目的并非要印证鬼神的存在,也无意把鬼的極端他性,作为藝術家的狄奥尼索斯面具。“幽灵证据”源于17世纪美国的巫女审判案, 赋予异象和梦境在法律上的合法性。策展人林司律道出,展覽旨在“探讨历史如何像幽灵一样影响現况”。

二人組Lin+Lam 的作品Even The Trees Would Leave (2005) 通過攝影和文字聚焦香港越南難民营(原址已改建为高尔夫球场),对旁观和消费他人痛苦的行为极尽讽刺。 装置/录像作品Tomorrow I leave (2010) 内容环绕马来西亚業已關閉的越南难民营,展示众多白色木台上的明信片、来自難民營的物品、并置馬來西亞風光和前难民信件的录像。作品恰似祭坛,显影人在飄泊流程中的呢喃。

梁硕恩的录像作品Poe (2007)從爱倫坡(Edger Allan Poe)身后的线索 - 包括其故居、遠房親戚、文字等 - 展开史密生(Robert Smithson)式的地點/非地點辯證。錄像作品Time Museum Time (2010)以藝術家的招牌动作 - 蹲,透过身体的空间概念回應庫哈斯(Rem Koolhaas) 在广州的美术馆项目,作品和内格里(Antonio Negri)批评“junkspace(“垃圾空间”)是生物政治”异曲同工。

Horizon出自Sreshta Rit Premnath之手, 藝術家从网络收集哥伦布纪念碑的照片,消去人物雕像,留下纪念碑底座的图像 - 历史叙事基础的虚拟的自明性隨之崩塌。

展覽明显并非探寻所谓“历史真相” ,历史在此是载体。作品展示的历史残骸作为缝合点(point de caption),建构永不闭合的的文学机器,通过建构叙述展开历史机理的新创口和文化病理学,成为无止的叙述空间。这个空间恰如德里达(Jacques Derrida)的幽灵,不属于现在或将来,它暗示放射式时间性的延展,消解线性历史,抱着自己没有躯体的躯体,又作为主人能指,从我们感官擦过。此外,作品对不同地点的意象,是以语句结构和之间的隐喻关系“定位“的非地点,这和作品之中的文字譜出双重文学性。香港鲜有展出以研究和檔案为基礎的藝術,是次展覽填补了这方面的空白。可惜,部分作品的符号过于强势:汇丰商标、殖民地难民营,维多利亚皇后像,对某些惯于把香港展覽化约为“后殖民叙述”的观众来说,诱惑实在太大,有形成意指短路的隐患。


(Published by Leap magazine)

Zhang Huan:Dawn of Time
Shanghai Art Museum
2010.02.03 — 2010.02.28
Venus Lau


作品“創世紀”散落的老青磚在發鏽的車斗後面拖了大半個展廳,車斗上面站著小馬標本。作品的青磚是從上海的拆遷地區收集所得。同樣的素材也運用在“寶塔” 上:青磚堆砌的鐘形塔上一窗洞開,內置小豬標本。兩件作品不約而同借用動物意象。其實,張洹並不是使用動物意象的新手,2002年的裝置“大佛” ,2004年雕塑“馬”,2005年的雕塑“驢”,2008年的裝置“竹林百賢”都用上動物形象甚至是活動物(如“竹林百賢”的猴子)。現代動物和人之間不是明了的隔扇,而是懸而未決的地域(有可能是阿甘本(Agamben)所指的 Homo Sacer),這片地域是人性和動物性的豁口。但張洹的作品似乎不屬於這種開放地域,而是擬人法,把我們和動物之間的距離拉的更遠。

作品“英雄一號”背對展廳入口——不知道是否對凝視的抗拒——臉熟非常,這件大型雕塑,跟藝術家2008年作品巨人1,2,3 號非常類近,同樣是以上百張經過處理的牛皮拼湊而成,形式上也同樣是殘缺獸肢看似隨意而痛苦的糾結。“英雄一號”披著一身腫瘤狀的凹凸不平,裂邊和累贅,但觀者還是可以辨認出肉食動物粗拙的前肢,人的耳廓和模糊的臉。作品的粗糲形態與其說是來自藝術家對不同材質的隨意實驗,倒不如說是來自計算,作品的粗悍掩蓋了其機關算盡(張洹有專用的車間加工毛皮)。“英雄一號”是否是藝術家對自己和同代中國藝術家的一種反諷:英雄是由預設的時間性事件築就的。经典的悲情英雄俄狄浦斯通過預言得知自己將來杀父娶母,雖然他千方百計逃避歹運,他一路從命運安排的荊途走來,從命運那里收集成就其英雄身分的事件,最後悲劇還是如期降臨。張洹出國成名再歸國再在國家級美術館辦個展,聽起來耳熟能詳,藝術家的命運,是否就是英雄的劇目一樣是先驗的圖冊?

香灰製作的繪畫作品“水庫”和“大運河”,畫面圖像參照六七十年代的新聞照片,表現了至少一部分人的集體回憶,另一部份沒有相關經驗的人回憶缺席的懷念。張洹在訪問時提到收集香灰是“凝固靈魂”,此概念與老新聞照片表現的集體性一拍即合:一方面是無數善信對形而上存在和遙遙彼岸的遠觀,另一方面是圖像通過大眾媒體無限複製和傳播。可惜作品僅僅憑借兩者脆弱聯繫成型,作品難免有些先天不足。比起這兩張畫(和張洹其他的香灰畫),協助藝術家生產作品的“張洹工作室”分工的細緻似乎更具美學性:工作人員從上海和其周邊廟宇收集香灰,把香灰按顏色分類,再以膠質把香灰按選定圖像固定在畫布上。這種精微彷如脆薄的白紙上無數深灰直線,也如卡爾維諾在未來千年文學備忘錄:輕逸篇引艾米莉·狄根森 (Emily Dickinson)詩句:


創世紀作為標題,刻意指涉舊約聖經首章創世記。創世記和其他宗教經典一樣,包含天地起始和早期文明誕生的敘述。展覽的英文題目沒有用上創世紀/記英文 Genesis,卻翻譯成Dawn of the Time。 Dawn,即破曉。創世記描述上帝說“光,就有了光”。又因為光是好的,所以需把日夜分隔。破曉就是晝夜切割線。這次展覽標題直指藝術的真實困境,就像齊澤克(Slavoj Zizek) 所講共產國家建築上揭露了政治真相(不管當權者口里是怎樣的“人民至上”,大樓頂上政治領導的巨型雕塑形象地道出人民的卑微):成為藝術家是不是等於成為破曉,擔當藝術史各個“時期”的分界線?

這次展覽作品的大尺寸(當然在國家級美術館展示巨型藝術品一般都被認為合理)和寓言式視覺語言,令人聯想起拉伯雷(François Rabelais)的著作《巨人傳》(The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel)。小說中荒誕又枝節蔓生的劇情加上主角巨人父子的驚人體量,本來氛圍應該像巴洛克皺摺一樣繁繁複複,時而舒展時而緊縮。可是拉伯雷放肆的幽默和想像力像氫氣一樣注滿作品,其輕靈在諷刺中世紀文化時足以做到四兩撥千斤(笑就是可以控制的瘋狂)。反之,創世紀的作品概念薄弱,拖曳著自己的重量,艱難的演著獨角戲,猶如展場鋪天蓋地的青磚。

希臘女妖美杜莎(Medusa)滿頭蛇髮,凝視她眼睛的人會變成頑石。其實變成石頭的人,都從美杜莎的凝視看到自己作為主體的沈重和無力——主體對他者的結構性依賴,作為向死而生的存在,主體面對作為永久入侵者/陌生人的死亡,無論顛覆還是接受,帶來的都是疏離。如果這次展覽的是石頭,它們,其實就是美杜莎面前的藝術家。Venus Lau