Platform for Observing the Astronomical Phenomena by Wang Mai
For art, last weekend was about as big as it gets for Shanghai. There were more gallery openings than I care to count, so of course I attended all of them. Alright, I may not have attended all the events of last weekend, but I did manage to see the main event — the Shanghai Biennale.
Now, I’m going to come straight out at the start and tell you that I liked it. Seriously, if you do one productive thing this weekend, put down the Kleenex and go to the Shanghai Biennale.
Let’s start at the very beginning, which is, from my understanding of popular musicals, a very good place to start. Firstly, outside there is a very good interpretation of the farce that our dependency on fuel has turned us into. Or at least that’s the way I interpret it. It’s basically a petroleum-themed ghostly merry-go-round. Awesome!
Also on the first floor there is a display of a few pieces of art that were, in some cases, copies of themselves displayed on tall posts which made them look they were picketing their own existence. The rest wasn’t too bad but nothing that really got me worked up, neither in a negative nor positive way.
The 2nd floor isn’t much, but it’s more promising. But then you get to the 3rd floor, which is this amazing paradise-like maze of huge installations that mix film with art with performance and all that whatnot that make art-world people go all goose-bumpy-like.
There were ancient Chinese-like drawings with futuristic blue prints sketched over them. There were 8-minute long movies of nothing happening with creepy noises playing over them, making them not only spellbinding, but somehow entertaining. Then there was this piece — And All the Question Marks Started to Sing by Verdensteatret.
And All the Question Marks Started to Sing by Verdensteatret
Now dear reader, if you pay any attention to anything in this slightly over glorified art orgy, this should be it! It made me feel like a kid with a death wish! Which, in my book at least, is an amazing thing to accomplish. It is just breathtaking! Sound meets visual meets installation in an exploration of every sense that you have and didn’t know you had. I had hair on end where one shouldn’t even have hair. It might just be me, and I don’t care about anyone else’s opinion, but I think this was absolutely fantastic. STAY THERE, WATCH IT! ENJOY IT, otherwise I might just come and hunt down your family!
The rest of the work on the 3rd floor is also very entertaining. I’m sorry, I was on such a high from the previously mentioned art piece that I paid little attention, but I still found it to be some of the most entertaining and interesting works I’ve seen in a long time.
On the 4th floor there are also numerous awe-striking installations worth looking at. One of them includes steam-punk-esque drawings of buildings with personalities. The other is a TV that has its feed broken down into a visual display so engaging that you sit for 10 minutes before realizing that you’re sitting on some little kid’s head.
Upon leaving the Shanghai Art Museum, I felt invigorated, refreshed and above all relieved. Because for once I was proven wrong. I was made aware that there are still things in this life and especially in this city that aren’t just shite. I stood there, smoking a cigarette thinking, “Riaad, Shanghai just proved that art-wise, it still has something to offer.”
For the uncensored version of Riaad’s trip to the Biennale, read it on Bound Editorial here. If you want to read Riaad’s version of what the other events last weekend were probably like, read his satirical essay Upon Walking In.