Wordgirl’s Top 10 Art Shows of 2015

Jumping on the New Year bandwagon, before jumping head first into 2016, I thought I’d share my top ten art shows of 2015…and when I say shows, I mean anything from formally curated exhibitions to sound and dance performances to moving image…all encompassing, sensorially engulfing…these were my highlights (and a few of manaXi’s too!).

I’ll be continuing my ‘Chinese Contemporary Art on Show’ blog post series this weekend, telling you about what’s on my art hit-list this Spring (and what I will be reviewing).

So, here are my 2015 highlights…

  1. Christian Marclay – White Cube, London, UK 
    I reviewed this show back in February 2015 and it’s stuck with me all year. As I quoted many months ago – “This exhibition when standing alone without its performative streak is simple in its aural and visual landscape…what you see and hear is well, what you get – surface interactions and examinations of the tensions between sound and language, how we talk about sound and language, how we interact with sound and language and ultimately, their paradoxical value through the presence of an in-house site of “art” production. Through curating events, curating the real and ephemeral sound and language experience, the White Cube has started to deconstruct the themes Marclay presents, delving deeper through collaborative exchange with other artists, creatives and of course, audiences…new, establish, old and young…where it was something special to see children engaging with the mystery of Marclay and Laurent that day.”

    Christian Marclay 6

  2. Shoot the Pianist: The Noise Scene in Taipei (1990-1995)’ – The Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, London, UK
    This time reviewed in April 2015, an exhibition representing an on-going wealth of PhD research tracing, for the first time in the UK, the historical developments of the underground noise scenes in Taipei during the first-half of the 1990s through a diverse range of archival materials, including handbills, ‘zines, photographs, moving-images, homemade cassettes and records from alternative spaces Sickly Sweet and Apartment No. 2; the art group, Taiwan Documenta; the noise bands, Z.S.L.O. and LTK Commune; Taipei Broken Life Festival (1994/95) and the first local record label focusing on experimental sound, NOISE. These historical documents are presented alongside works by Taiwanese artists Hou Chun-ming and Yao Jui-chung’s works, which include prints and photography documenting the urban ruins in the early 1990s.

    Shoot the Pianist 5

  3. ‘Restoke: The Voyagers’ – Tunstall Baths, Stoke-on-Trent, UK
    Again reviewed back in April 2015 (apparently a culture filled month). Restoke presents ‘The Voyagers’ asks “what would you say to your younger self?” by telling real life stories from the people of Stoke-on-Trent, retold through a fluid blend of in part theatre, dance, performance, narrative and replayed recordings of oral histories, live music and choral soundtrack, an unexpected light show and projected animations. ‘The Voyagers’ takes a multi-sensorial journey through short, back-to-back tales of resilience, perseverance, spiritualism, love, loss, regret and Ricky the lion…the journey of life, the self-referential personal voyage, each chapter of life’s happiness and heartache, moments to remember, moments you wished you could forget, the questions and “unresolvables”, and those lessons learned.

  4. The Chinese Photobook‘ – The Photographers’ Gallery, London, UK
    To feed the book artist part of my multi-dimensional professional portfolio and the bibliophile part of me. I’m actually writing a book chapter at the moment on independent book publishing in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong…thinking I need to get in touch with the project’s curators Martin Parr and WassinkLundgren. Actually, I’m going to write blog posts about this chapter as it develops. ‘The Chinese Photobook’ revealed the richness and diversity of China’s largely unexplored history of photobook publishing. Spanning from 1900 to 2014, the exhibition included key titles by established and emerging Chinese artists. Archival and contemporary minded in curation and visual display, it let you immerse yourself in a part of Chinese literary and visual culture that is usually unseen and unread. I was particularly in love with some of the traditional bookbinding methods on show (shown in the photo below) having learned (in July last year) how to make Zhen Xian Bao/Chinese Thread books with fellow book artist Lori Sauer (as shown below).

  5. Listening‘ – Site Gallery, Sheffield, UK
    As 2015 went on, due to academic commitments and a health card that got pulled out, my blog post writing seemed to slow down FAR TOO MUCH. This is to change in 2016! Anyway, in May 2015, during an annual visit to see my god parents in Sheffield, manaXi and I took my father (aka Poppa K) to see Site Gallery’s exhibition ‘Listening’ – a broad-based group exhibition examining the act of listening in contemporary. Another growing area of research for me, especially in terms of sound art from China (as presented my first The Temporary project – ‘Architectures of change’). I was drawn to the show seeing Haroon Mirza‘s name on the line up, an artist I have followed for many years now. This exhibition viewing (or listening) experience was particularly special as my 76 year-old father engaged in every part of it…coming away with a very different sense of what contemporary art can be. I think I should take him to more art shows this year! Here he is below…

  6. ‘Tree of Codes’ – Manchester International Festival, Manchester, UK
    Reviewed in August 2015‘Tree of Codes: A contemporary ballet’ was part of the Manchester International Festival 2015 (MIF15) and inspired by ‘Tree of Codes’ by Jonathan Safran Foer, a book carving re-appropriation of his favourite text ‘The Street of Crocodiles’ by Bruno Schulz. This is now feeding my book arts practice. Soloists and dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet and dancers from Company Wayne McGregor formed the company for the performance, with a site-specific environment created by Eliasson to a score composed by Jamie xx. This creative team worked together for over two years to make a contemporary ballet that responded to this beautifully intricate and distinct artwork…and it came through.

  7. ‘Love is Enough: Andy Warhol and William Morris’ – Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG), Birmingham, UK
    Another show I should have reviewed and never got round to it. This exhibition was a perfect marriage of artists, materials, techniques, processes…a critique of popular culture-art-craft-design…from prints to drawings, wallpapers to tapestries…it was a visual patternation overload interpreted by a dual timeline. Curated by Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller, Love is Enough brings together his two greatest artistic influences – William Morris and Andy Warhol – and explores the artists’ common interests in mass production, popular culture and mythology. Warhol is a cornerstone in my personal art history. One of the first “greats” I researched when I was 16, where I was that obsessed my brother took me to New York to see his works first hand. I’ll never forget getting first-hand insight into his works at some of America’s most renowned commercial galleries.In 1999, this was possible, I don’t think I’d be able to leaf through and handle print works in 2016! Change in value…change in accessibility…contradiction of the mass produced and high art that Warhol always critiqued.

  8. ‘Softer Targets’ by Jenny Holzer – Hauser and Wirth, Somerset, UK
    Yet again another show I had on my review list! And again another cornerstone artist in my personal art history – text and language artist Jenny Holzer (one of the reasons to my progression to “wordgirl”). I went to see this show after spending three days at Farmfest music festival as it is just down the road from in Bruton, Somerset. Tired and music-ed out, I immersed myself in the LED light show. Sitting in the aural silence, yes visual narrative, it felt like a cure for my exhausted soul. I can remember lying down in one of the spaces clearing my festival chaos-ed mind before the three-hour car journey home…actually, it always feels like home being in her exhibitions, feeding “wordgirl”. The title of the exhibition refers to a ‘redaction painting’ from a classified 2004 Federal Bureau of Investigation report, ‘The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland: An FBI Assessment’. Relatively few pages of the 45-page report were declassified, with its text heavily redacted, before release to the public. All five gallery spaces were devoted to the exhibition, creating a series of environments that were to be read and interpreted in different ways through painting, stone engraving, LEDs and more, all to examine her on-going research into the ‘war on terror’. Visiting Hauser and Wirth in Bruton has become an annual ritual, post-Farmfest, and also as my Grandpa went to school there…see you in Summer with a tired body and mind!

  9. ‘Thief’ by Yan Xing – Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing, China
    During my month-long trip to Asia in September 2015…again a lack of blog posts on these experiences…I saw such a wealth of arts and culture in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Overwhelming in part, yet clarifying that this is my world and I love every part of it (apart from jetlag and illness). Two shows by contemporary Chinese artists clearly stood out from many others…funnily enough by two artists with whom I have worked. I walked to Galerie Urs Meile in Caochangdi from my hotel…a good 45 minute walk in the heavy Beijing air, not realising that as it was so close to the Autumn festival, many spaces were closed that day. Luckily Urs Meile wasn’t and I was greeted by Yan Xing’s solo exhibition ‘Thief’. In silence, poetic, intimate, emotional, sexual and sinister works unfolded as a series, a dialogue, a narrative looking into feelings of shame, suspicion, downfall and degradation of status, honesty versus dishonesty represented through minimal objects and the handmade/readymade. It felt as if you were trying to piece together a series of human relationships, where you were never told the truth. A “thief” of knowledge and personal insight, you are left in a world of wonder, on what was for me, a solitary China day. This is the art I’d been searching for in the month-long research trip. Leave me anticipating and wanting more. Thank you Yan Xing.

  10. ‘Delusional Mandala’ by Lu Yang – Beijing Commune, 798, Beijing, China
    Finally, the other contemporary Chinese artist I make reference to above, Lu Yang…an artist who I’ve known for many years now and watched explode in terms of success on the international art scene – as with Yan Xing actually. In this solo show, Lu portrays her renowned style of science meets art meets spiritualism meets autobiography through a digital-technological visual floor show and celebration through music, video, installation, animation, photography, and video games. More broadly she explores the meaning of life whilst questioning its very existence. In turn, in ‘Moving Gods’ (as shown in the video below) she continues her examinations in religious rituals and practices harking back to the traditional through wall hangings, religious objects and motifs. It is the attention to details in her works…as with Yan Xing…a dedication to this, that takes their mutual art practices to a new experiential and interpretive level. Looking forward to seeing their journeys in 2016.


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