We know we are a bit late on this, but the Shanghai Biennale will be going on until November 4, so you still have time. The following are our observations from one day spent at the Shanghai Art Museum last week. We accompanied a friend who is into design to the opening of this Biennale, themed HyperDesign. It features more than 100 artworks by 93 groups of artists from 23 countries and regions.
- There are quite a few impressive works, such as British artist Julian Opie’s “This is Shahnoza”, American artist Daniel Lee’s “Nightlife-Xintiandi”, Pakistani artist Osman Khan’s “Sur la Table “ (try to face the camera above the table), Dutch artist Marnix de Nijs’s “Run Motherfucker Run” (we were kind of surprised they kept the original name hanging in the exhibit hall), Japanese artist Naoto Fukasawa’s “Emergency Exit”, Indian artist Shilpa Gupta’s “Untitled” (our favourite!), Korean artist Choe-U-Ram’s “Urbanus” and Chinese artist Zhong Biao’s photograph “2006”. We didn’t have time for the short film though.
- Overall, we were a little disappointed because:
- Staff at the Shanghai Art Museum still give off this bureaucratic attitude (this is not helping!) to the bewildered visitors. When we went to one room with an installation, for some reason, the device was turned off. We tried to make it work, and finally found out there is a sensor installed below the screen. So we walked there to make it start. The engine sound of the treadmill drew a big audience and also a staff member, who told us to leave the room immediately because we were not allowed to do that. (But, hey, we made it work!)
- The mediocre quality of most of the artworks displayed. Like we saw this photograph of a Porsche in the exhibit — we have absolutely no idea why this has anything to do with HyperDesign.
- Bad organization of the whole event. Just one example: Japanese artist Haruki Nishijima’s “Remain in Light” was actually a pretty cool idea that encourages visitors to use an “electronic insect-collecting kit” to capture ambient analog sound waves. After accumulating radio-wave data, it’s going to be converted into images, which we assumed would be just spots of light. But the kit was broken when we got there, which was about 3 in the afternoon. Maybe too many visitors caused it to break? We don’t know and no one bothered to put a notice on the wall. So we had to walk off to the next one. There are a few installation works where the device was turned off for no apparent reason — even the staff didn’t know what’s going on.
- Last thing we have to bitch about it: We went to the fourth floor to view more art. There was a stand up there offering free coffee. We got some and wanted to continue exploring — but we were told we have to stay in a 20-meter-long corridor until we finished our coffee. By then we were too tired to even argue with the security guard.
2006 Shanghai Biennale, Sep 5-Nov 5, Shanghai Art Museum, 325 Nanjing Xi Lu; Other venues include Shanghai Sculpture Space, 570 Huaihai Xi Lu, Citic Square, 1168 Nanjing Xi Lu
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