CURATOR: ZHOU YI
3/F, 27 HUQIU ROAD, HUANGPU DISTRICT
Perrotin Shanghai is pleased to present the group exhibition I Feel The Way You Feel, which tries to showcase works and practices in the current media environment, and deliberately chose works in “obsolete" traditional mediums as the subject, which is customarily left out by new media thinking.
The medium is the message.
According to John Lennon, he met Yoko Ono visiting a show in his friend’s gallery, where he encountered an installation. There was a ladder in the middle of the show space, and just above it, a black canvas hung on the ceiling with small indiscernible writings, so he climbed the ladder to get a closer look, and he saw “yes.” For an audience not yet affluent with contemporary art, his spontaneous decision to traverse over the boundary met with a positive response. It was not a “no” or “fuck you” written on the canvas, but “yes.” In the above legend, the message is inseparable from the event. Thus a perfect embodiment of the famous saying of the era “The medium is the message”.
Pop Art is the first to say to the viewer: I feel the way you feel. To express that we are the same is not necessarily intended to flatter, but like installation artist Dan Graham says: “All artists are alike. They dream of doing something more social, collaborative, and real than art.” We seem to believe what outside of art is better than the best of high culture produces. This may be why Pop Art is still cool today, like how the word “cool” is still cool.
In McLuhan’s time, the coolest art was no doubt, Pop Art. Andy Warhol’s high entropy, flat, decentralized artworks in Studio 54 provided dazzling party background, but once left their intended media environment, the crowd and the music, even placed in the most prominent museums of today, the works shed the presence they once had and go into a dormant state until the subsequent unearthing. Using cool to applaud or describe something would simultaneously make a reverse claim, grouping the individuals who call it. Such a complex package/meme to say yes, seems to meet an emerging need and energy, the cool person finds a tacit connection, or come up with an uncommon point of view, that extra effort of digging exhibits the creativity and subjectivity inherent in just viewing itself.
In the art in the age of digital media, consciously or not, artists invent or re-invent mediums of their own by mixing and fusing the old and the new. Medium almost becomes a product of collaborative improvisation between the game (artworks) and the player (audience).
On the surface, paintings and sculptures seem physically the same as before, yet the metamorphosis of these mediums is imperceptible to the eye. The conscious cooling down of traditional mediums in Chinese contemporary art seems to have begun with the cartoon generation, artist born in the late 70s and early 80s are perhaps the first generation of digital natives. The cartoon generation artists for example picked a less realist way of depiction, who were deemed “incompetent” in the eyes of the academy. These images lack of volume and require no modeling skill. These artists had begun their careers from a “less reputable” commercial departure. They felt a bodily aversion to the elitist sentiment and assumed critical angles, instead turned to thematic subjects they cared personally and sought commonalities with lay public. What was considered intuitive or even hormonal drives to rebel at the time, were in fact the new sentiments to connect a larger audience only recognized today from its medium properties and intentions. Through the attentiveness to medium, Chinese contemporary art sprout and grew on its own, and began finding its way in dialogue with the international art discourse.
The youth first popularized the word “cool” are entering old age, why is cool still cool? David Skinner’s article informs us that this slang first came from the black urban culture in America of the 1930s, especially related to music and entertainment. “Be cool” as a street philosophy reflected the black experience in America, unimpressed with the daily horror society imposed, and unengaged, while maintaining a sobering distance from the mainstream culture. So pleasure seeking is actually rooted in a political stand. Cool has the quality of instant affect, but too contextualized to define. It is a message of which the content cannot be detached from the envelope. The word “cool” continues to expand since it was first coined, which now contains many opposing concepts from initial intentions. As much as it still works to divide people, nowadays it makes more connections through consciousness and situations, and less based on identities. In other words, creating ways to share tacit understanding is still the most commonly applied means of self-protection and resistance.
Text by Zhou Yi
English edited by Fiona He