Polyphonic Strategies:  The Moving Image and its Expanded Fields

In his discussion of Richard Serra’s Hand Catching Lead (1968), Benjamin Buchloh puts forward the concept of “sculptural film”: the repetitive attempts made by the hand to catch sheets of falling lead constitute in the film a continuous “procedure”, which subordinates itself to neither the norms of (narrative) cinema nor that of (Greenberg’s modernism) art, rather, through its introduction of certain sculptural principles, the moving-image is cast anew—as what Pollock does with his action paintings, Serra’s film invokes a “communication system derived from body motion”. According to Buchloh, the movement of the dropped lead sheets we see on screen is an analogy to the motion of the film within the rolling camera—that is, the work’s visualization corresponds to the materiality of its medium—yet eventually it refers back to the field of sculpture, revealing ” the self-evident procedures of the sculptural as its true meaning”.

Nonetheless, this aforementioned “meaning” is metaphorical par excellence. In Rosalind Krauss’s interpretation, Serra’s practice enables the audience to perceive that “the hidden meaning he reads into the corporate body of the world are his own projections and that the interiority he had thought belonged to the sculpture is in fact his own interiority”. The deployment of moving-image in this (sculptural) process renders the sculpture here no more presentation of a “product”, and instead now more illustrative of a “process”, through which self-consciousness predicated on time-based experiences is evoked. As per Krauss’s prominent theorization of the “expanded field”:in the postmodernism context, sculpture unexpectedly strikes back from its then relatively rather peripheral and marginal positioning—turning the table through its simultaneous incorporation of all other mediums and the dissolving of  any existing boundaries accordingly, thereby manages to take its flight from beneath modernism’s shadow. Sculptures can surely be in the form of films—as Michael Snow and Anthony McCall has respectively demonstrated with their “structural films” and “solid light films”—the sculptures in question here are extended into the phenomenologically atmospheric, and thus stand in opposition to minimalism’s rigid and enclosed systems.

The real pivot for Krauss’s discussion, however, resides in a new kind of “media specificity”, in which there is no more purity or exclusivity, but is collective and polyphonic instead. As in Hand Catching Lead, there’s no need to identify either sculpture or film as the one true basis of the work, contrarily, it’s necessary to see the two mediums as intermingling into a hybrid site, or say, a dispositif. Within this newly assembled site/dispositif, the contents and forms, as well as the structural and the material supports are highly coupled—it is precisely in these tight couplings one may see the old “medium specificity” as according to modernism reiterated. Yet where the new version differs is that in its “expansions”, the entire site/dispositif in fact gets transformed into a “medium”: “For, in order to sustain artistic practice, a medium must be a supporting structure, generative of a set of conventions, some of which, in assuming the medium itself as their subject, will be wholly ‘specific’ to it, thus producing an experience of their own necessity”.

The particularity of this new “medium specificity” justifies and further facilitates intermedia artistic practices—with video works making perhaps the only exception. As the “post-medium” theory argues, it is indeed the arrival of video that truly proclaims the coming of the post-medium moment. For Krauss, the transmissivity and spontaneity of video enables its “existing in endlessly diverse forms, spaces and temporalities”, while its unique technical apparatus generates a ” discursive chaos, a heterogeneity of activities that could not be theorized as coherent or conceived of as having something like an essence or unifying core”. Later in her essay “Two Moments from the Post-Medium Condition”, Krauss updates the concept of “material support” with that of “technical support” to better describe the medium condition emerging from artists ’practices as they are now working with much more complex contemporary technical mediums and situations. For all that, it is yet crucial to stress the point that in Krauss’s thinking, distinguishing film and video (along with the later “new media”) is an ontological difference—the former is ever so the typical medium of self-sufficiency modernism revels in, whereas the latter declares itself as the ultimate saboteur of the modernist’s reverie.

With the research and exhibition project Polyphonic Strategies, I intend to propose—building upon the above theoretical basis—a hypothesis: Does moving-image constitute any de facto “starting point” for the participating artists (in even their moving-image works)? Or else, perhaps we may properly address the relevance in between their moving-image and non-moving-image practices in the light of “moving-image operating in its expanded fields”? And conversely to further raise the question as to whether paintings and sculptures may as well be seen as certain forms of moving-image? In the contemporary conditions, moving-image has long ceased to be indicative of but a specific mode of image and its material support, nor is it possible for us to cover its all-encompassing connotations and denotations with the phenomenologically metaphoric. The fact that various mediums have mutually built into and framed each other through the means of “expansions” back then when Hand Catching Lead was made precisely indicates that boundaries enclosing each and every medium yet persisted at the time. Whereas today mediums—along with the conventions, experiences, as well as aesthetics surrounding which—have gone through drastic transformations, to the point that even the distinction between film and video within the field of moving-image art has been dissolved. It’s interesting to point out that all five participating artists in the show once received their education from fine arts academies in either the department of oil painting or that of sculpture. These experiences are more or less lasting and continue to affect the artists’ later practices in subtle and ambiguous ways, eventually inducing them to take on distinctive strategies in each of their expanded practices: in YANG Fudong we see his reactivating the spiritual core of Chinese handscrolls through films; while CHEN Dandizi drives her video and photographic installations with the universality she finds present in the emotions; and as YU Honglei pursues the rhythms and pulsations that “short-videos” and sculptures share, LI Ran makes his works in paintings, videos and archival researches accompany and nourish each other; meanwhile there is WANG Xu building up a project of complexity in his assemblage of sculpture and moving-image. In any case, Polyphonic Strategies is not aspiring to complete here the project—which shall be of considerable complexity and immensity—it proposes, rather, it’s more an attempt at shedding new light on the artists’ specific practices and the operating logic of the mediums behind which.

ABOUT ARTIST

Chen Dandizi

(b.1990). She graduated from the oil painting department of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 2015. Dandizi’s works are characterized by a symbiosis of media: Her use of video, installation, photography, and literature form integral parts required to illuminate intimate, short-lived moments in time, and human emotion. Her works explore the perception and experience of encounters with reoccurring phenomena of the natural and artificial world. Dandizi’s art explores central themes such as self-knowledge and observation of her lived environment. Revealing the fleeting nature of hidden connections between a unique moment and emotion is at the heart of her creative process.
Her recently solo exhibition includes: Fear, No Fear, ( Times Art Center Berlin, 2021 ); Tropical Room (Hua International, Beijing, China, 2020); A Severe Hangover (Canton Gallery, Guangzhou, China, 2018). Selected Group Exhibitions: A Long Hello——The Eighth Huayu Youth Award Finalist Exhibition 2020 (UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China, 2020); Under the Sign of Saturn (ShanghART M50, Shanghai, China, 2020); The South is Not an Island (OCAT Shenzhen, Shenzhen, China, 2020); Touching Feeling (Hua International, Beijing, China, 2020); Materializing Memory: Contemporary Video Art From China (University Art Gallery Frick Fine Arts Building University of Pittsburgh, America, 2019);  Story:Born After The ’85 New Wave Generation Y of Contemporary Chinese Art, (Beijing Contemporary Art Expo, Beijing,China,  2019); Inner Scapes (Galleria continua, Beijing, China, 2018); Crush (Para Site, Hong Kong, China, 2018); Chinese Video Artists Festival (Mexico national culture Digital Center and Museum of Arts of Querétaro, Mexico, 2017);  Fleeting Memories & Written Notes,(Capsule Shanghai, Shanghai, China, 2016); Mere Existence (Canton Gallery, Guangzhou, China, 2016). Finalist of The Eighth Huayu Youth Award.

ABOUT ARTIST

Wang Xu

Wang Xu (b. 1986, Dalian, China) works predominantly in sculpture and video installation. For Wang, sculpture occupies an ambiguous space between objects, experience, and social practice, mediated by time and personal memories. 
Wang’s shows include Overtime Gift, 47 Canal, New York (2019); Garden of Seasons, Vincent Price Art Museum,  Monterey Park City (2018); Shanghai Project, Shanghai Himalayas Museum, Shanghai (2017); A Frame Apart, Queens International 2016 Short Film Program, Queens Museum, New York (2016); In Response: Repetition and Difference, Jewish Museum, New York (2015); and Under Foundations, Sculpture Center, Long Island City, New York (2015) etc. Wang holds a BFA from Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and an MFA from Columbia University in New York.

ABOUT ARTIST

Li Ran

Born in Hubei in 1986, graduated from the oil painting department of Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 2009. He moved from Beijing to Shanghai in 2018. His work involves multiple media such as video, performance, painting, installation and writing, etc. In recent years, he embarked on a journey surveying the antagonist roles in theatre, stage art, make-up design, the production of imported films and espionage films since 1950s in China. The artist often writes images through collections of photo documents, character scenes, and dubbed monologues. Meanwhile, he also expands the more complex and personalized time and space of this writing in painting, sound, and installation.
Li Ran has exhibited at the Center Pompidou, Pairs; basis door actuele kunst (BAK), Utrecht; Huas der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), Houston; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal; The Museum of Moscow, Moscow; Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva; CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; NTU Center For Contemporary Art Singapore (CCA), Singapore; Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD), Manila; HOW Museum, Shanghai, Sifang Museum, Nanjing; OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT), Shenzhen, Shanghai and Xi’an; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing; CAFA Museum (CAFAM), Beijing; and other venues, He has held solo exhibition at OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT), Xi’an (2015); His single-channel video work also screening in Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London; The Jewish Museum, New York and other venues; His works have also been featured in Montreal Biennale (2014), Biennale Of Moving Images 2014 (2014 In Geneva), 4th Moscow International Biennale for Young Art (2014), 2nd CAFAM Biennial (2014), 4th “Former West” Project (2013, In Berlin), 9th Gwangju Biennial (2012), 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale (2012). He won the “Best Artist Award” at the 2014 Moscow International Youth Art Biennial and was nominated for the “Future Generation
Award” by the Pinchuk Arts Center in 2017.

ABOUT ARTIST

Yang Fudong

Yang Fudong was born in Beijing in 1971, and now lives and works in Shanghai. He graduated from the Department of Oil Painting, China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. He is among the most influential Chinese artists today. Yang has started to create video works since late 1990s. His works form a unique cultural visual interpretation through multiple cultural perspectives interlaced with experiences of space and time with photograph, film and installation. They are all characterized by multi-perspectives, exploring the structures and forms of identities in myths, personal memories and life experiences.
Yang Fudong has participated in prestigious international art exhibitions including Su Zhou Museum (2019); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2017); Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France (2016); The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2013); Tate Liverpool (2007); Tate Modern (2004); Centre Pompidou (2003). His works also included in La Biennale de Lyon (2013); Sharjah Biennial 11 (2013); 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010); 52nd International Art Exhibition Venice Biennale (2007); The 5th AsiaPacific Triennial (2006); FACT Liverpool Biennial (2004); 50th International Art Exhibition Venice Biennale (2003); Documenta 11 (2002); 4th Shanghai Biennale (2002); 7th International Istanbul Biennial (2001) etc. 
He had solo-shows at most acclaimed institutions and galleries, such as Dawn Breaking, Long Museum (West Bund), Shanghai (2018); Moving Mountains, Shanghai Center of Photography, Shanghai (2016); Twin Tracks: Yang Fudong Solo Exhibition, Yuz Museum, Shanghai (2015); The Light That I Feel, SALT outdoor video installation, Sandhornoya, Norway (2014); Yang Fudong: Estranged Paradise, Works 1993-2013, The Kunsthalle Zurich, Switzerland (2013); Quote Out of Context, Solo Exhibition of Yang Fudong, OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shanghai (2012); One Half of August, Yang Fudong Solo Exhibition, Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London, U.K. (2011); Yang Fudong: Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest and Other Stories, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece (2010); Dawn Mist, Separation Faith, Yang Fudong’s Solo Exhibition, Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai (2009); Yang Fudong: the General’s Smile, Hara Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2008); Yang Fudong: Don’t worry, it will be better…, Kunsthalle, Wien, Austria (2005) ; Yang Fudong, Castello di Rivoli Museo d’arte contemporanea, Torino, Italy (2005); Five Films, The Renaissance Society, Chicago, U.S.A (2004) etc.

ABOUT ARTIST

Yu Honglei

Yu Honglei (b. 1984) lives and works in Beijing. Yu Honglei draws upon wide visual vernacular from visual cultures of Chinese urban landscapes and poetic moments in his personal narratives. Yu Honglei keenly observes the translation, transposition and circulation of images, by weaving through the physical and the digital realm of image production. In his interest in plasticity of cultural knowledge and aesthetics, what arises is a constellation of hermeneutic and polysemic output, executed through highly personal artistic discourse.
Yu Honglei’s work has been shown internationally at UCCA, Beijing (solo; 2019);Antenna Space, Shanghai (solo; 2019) K11 Atelier, Hong Kong (2019); Powerlong Musem, Shanghai (2019); Hudson Valley MOCA, Peekskill (2019); Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler,Berlin (Solo; 2018); Belgrade Biennial (2018); Daimler Contemporary, Berlin (2017); Carl Kostyál, London, (solo; 2017); Fondazione Baruchello, Rome (2017); chi K11 Art Museum, Shanghai (2017); ZKM Center for art and media, Karlsruhe, Germany (2017); Long March Space, Beijing, China (2017);; Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam (2016); Museo Pino Pascali, Polignano (2016); Telescope, Beijing (solo; 2015); Spring Workshop, Hong Kong (2015); Rubell Family Collection, San Antonio Museum of Art, Texas (2015); Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai (2015); Magician Space, Beijing (solo; 2013).

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