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Summer in Shanghai



Summer in Shanghai

New Century Art Foundation is pleased to announce Summer in Shanghai (July 8 – September 6, 2017) at Pond Society, Shanghai, which brings together important works spanning three decades by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Philippe Parreno, and Anri Sala.  

Summer in Shanghai invokes the spirit of a series of important group exhibitions which in the early 1990s began to radically question the format itself, instead drawing on the relationship between the history of cinema and the altered conditions of daily life to construct new scenarios. All three artists, each in their own way, continuously engage with the cinema and the way in which the medium influences the experience of situations, sites, memories and narrative structures.

As Gonzalez-Foerster observed in 1998 "just before the appearance of cinema, the exhibition-experience … [was] appealing to all sorts of narrations and special effects which will afterwards be temporarily confiscated by the cinema industry…. A little later (the Nineties) it is the turn of the exhibition to write heretofore unspoken history of cinema – film in real time, fast and slow motion, slowing down and the flexibility of time."

Emphasizing the importance of the medium for his practice, Parreno noted in 1995 “Cinema has a natural rapport with time and today this is an important matter in contemporary arts …. the exhibitions are moments, scenarios which can be replayed.” In the same essay, Parreno posed a question which retrospectively can be seen as major tenant of both artists' subsequent work: “Doesn’t one produce exhibitions based on a text, as one would produce a film based on a script? Could an exhibition be a form of cinema without a camera?”
Sala, whose oeuvre focuses on the relationships between music and narrative, architecture and film, remarked in 2006: “I am interested in things told through images but not always through languages …. When images tell things, they can always keep an ambiguity. I am also interested in how music can be narrative. It has a way of dealing with meaning which differs from that of language. Music can resist meaning.”

Summer in Shanghai recalls the darkenend movie theatres: illuminated by the flickering lights of Parreno’s marquee beckoning us, reflected in the mirrored surface of the violet Speech Bubbles hovering above, while orange halos emanating from the illuminated buckets that make up the mysterious Untitled creates a surreal landscape. At the far end of the space, Anri Sala’s film, A Spurious Emission, constitutes a mis-en-abime: a film about a staged musical performance of a Baroque ensemble and a country band which takes as point of departure a film shot at a US truckstop. Real and imaginary life mingle, experiences are filtered by memories of films. 

Conceived, in the artist's words, as "a sort of time machine into the 20th century," Gonzalez-Foerster recreated works from her student years, realizing "that these works were also very programmatic in relation to the next 30 years of practice." Characteristic of the artist's continuous play with temporal displacements and the subjectivity of experience, the works also have oblique references to a mediated life—thus the phone is taken as technological marker of a specific time and place and a common cultural experience while the unlikely pairing of lamps and buckets creates an echo of the luminosity of cinematic light.

Parreno's Speech Bubbles, first exhibited in white in 1997, introduce the language of comics into the exhibition format. Similar to the empty Speech Bubbles—signs without signification—the light-lit planes of his Marquees carry no text, acquiring a different meaning according to the context of an exhibition and imagination of the viewer. Parreno's Marquee objects invoke the glowing, flickering porch roofs in front of entrances to cinemas and theatres built in the early 20th century, announcing movie titles and names of actors. This reference to the history of cinema, turns the exhibition space inside out: bringing the object inside, the exhibition space becomes an in-between space, combining outside and inside, public and private.

This sense of Summer in Shanghai as a stage is further emphasized by Sala's A Spurious Emission. Sala has collaborated with the two artists on several occasions, notably in 2007 when Parreno and Hans Ulrich Obrist curated Il Tempo del Postino, a three-hour event conceived as a group exhibition consisting of time-based works. Taking as point of departure a film and sound recording, A Spurious Emission combines a staged event but also adds an element of animation: a figure obscured by the piano was inserted in postproduction, emerging as as ghostly faint white outline.
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