Continuing with the theme of trash in art, this time we have Chinese artist Song Dong’s mother’s trash, 40 years worth of it, collected through the years of hardship, turmoil and fortunes lost during the cultural revolution which started in the 1960s. Coming from a relatively well-off family, to have it all being taken away and Song’s father being sent to a labour camp for re-education must have been hard enough for Song’s mother, but when Song senior died in 2002, she went on over-drive; forbidding Song Dong and his sister from throwing anything away and filling every square inch of the house with every consumed household item imaginable, most of which would be considered trash.
Something had to give, as the house became unlivable under these circumstances, and in 2005 Song Dong convinced his mother to allow him to use this stuff in an art exhibition, entitled Waste Not (2005) which is derived from the Chinese thrift mentality, that everything has multiple uses beyond its intended use, and that one should capitalize on this, otherwise ‘one would be considered wasteful’.
Austrian sculptor Erwin Wurm first gained notoriety with his ‘One-Minute Sculptures’, the first of which appeared in the late 1990’s; social-sculptures which depended on the participation of museum-goers to do absurd acts for a minute and take a picture of it. These call into question whether human beings can be considered a work of art at all or whether its just a publicity stunt, a fraud even.
Many of these acts call into question the reality of what we see and the role of clothing as a sign and facilitator of this illusionary environment.
In Fat Man (1999), Untitled (Hamlet) (2007) and Anger Bump (2007) we see how we have been conditioned to equate protrusions on certain areas of clothing with certain sexual connotations, while in reality they have just been propped up by a bottle of liquid detergent.
Representing Hong Kong in the 2011 Venice Biennale, Pak Sheung Chuen is an artist whose conceptual interventions delve into re-contextualization in various forms, providing a social commentary in the process. Individually these interventions are small gestures, playful, humorous, silly even, but seen in totality, provide a glimpse into his worldview, which is ultimately a utopian one.
In A Little Flower for the Passer-by (2005), Pak placed 5 one-dollar coins on the street in a flower formation in various locations, drew the stem and leaf in chalk, noting the date and took a picture. Later he would return to the same spot after someone had picked up the money and take another picture with just the chalk stem, leaf and date remaining.
In Waiting For All The People To Sleep (2006) Pak stood outside an apartment building at night and waited for all of its inhabitants to go to sleep, taking a picture at various times during the night, observing the light from an apartment to indicate whether someone was still up or not.
He also waited for a friend at a subway station for half a day, unannounced and without an appointment, until they by chance met up and took a picture.
As a student in art school, Christian Marclay, found more ‘energy’ in the music scene and got involved in music DJing more so than art, which he found comparatively more ‘stoic’ at the time, pioneering the technique of scratching, of using the turn-table as an instrument, in concocting strange sounds that fans enjoyed along with the rhythms of their dance music.
Lately his interests have returned to the visual arts, taking the Golden Lion Award for best artist at the 2011 Venice Biennale and making strange video/films to be exhibited in museums worldwide. What he does has in fact stayed the same; just as in the days of DJing for Hip-hop events, he takes source material, be it sounds or music from an LP, footage from a classic Hollywood movie, or video footage walking the streets of London, material that should be discarded and mashes it up, taking certain common attributes, linking them together and transforming it into something else in the process.
His most famous, notorious work, The Clock (2010) a 24-hour film made up of thousands of scenes from Hollywood films spliced together, new and old, in which any clock or watch scene showing the time, would correspond to the real time at the display venue, poses the following existential question: what if one could tell the time by watching a movie? Would the movie turn into a clock? Even though the plot had to be slowed down by having the time pass in the movie at the same rate as real time, but by matching the two together, the line between illusion and reality is blurred.
“The moment one thing transforms to another is the most beautiful moment. That moment is really magical.” Vik Muniz 2008
Since the Olympics are starting in Rio De Janeiro this week, I thought it would be nice to look at Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s work, who uses household materials to create 2-D sculptural pieces based on iconic pictures from art history or pop culture which are then photographed with a large format camera. These household materials, such as chocolate, syrup, cotton threads, sugar, caviar, scrap metals and finally plain old garbage create a kind of tension with the viewer, since, these materials are either edible, delicious, sweet, luxurious or disgusting.
Anyone who has read my other blog posts would know that Muniz is not the first nor only artist to use garbage, or to make an installation garbage-like, so what in the world is so interesting about this?
What I found most interesting from Muniz’s vast body of work is this documentary he did, or starred in, Waste Land (2010) directed by Lucy Walker, which depicts Muniz’s project to work with garbage and people who recycle garbage, who happen to be the lowest class of people in Brazil. The central premise and the purpose of the film is the question: Can contemporary art really change the lives of ordinary people, and by extension, change the world?