The Beijing leg of the biannual Get It Louder exhibition wraps up today, so I made a point of heading to the latest addition to the SOHO empire to check it out before the curtain fell. (SOHO Shangdu is located off of Dong Da Qiao Lu, adjacent to The Place, home of the largest “sky screen” in Asia.)
Initial impression: a shopping mall is not the best environment in which to experience art. It’s a matter of focus, or rather, the inability to do so within the mall context. The following image should illustrate my point:
It’s difficult to look at and around the lego sculpture within the vitrine without getting caught up in the barrage of color, signage and chrome that compose the mise en scène. Luckily, the “bridge room” and outdoor components of the exhibition didn’t suffer these distractions. They harbored their own flaws, but more importantly, featured some engaging work. Top of the list has to be Cao Fei’s iMirror video, for which she is both director and lead “actor” via her Second Life avatar, China Tracy. The video opens with a group of For Sale signs rotating in mid air, unbounded by the force of gravity or any tangible referent. Cao Fei repeatedly returns to the image of the For Sale sign, intercutting images of stark, hyper-modern buildings and solitary urban dwellers, dwarfed by the expansive surroundings.
It’s hard not to draw a comparison between these vast, newly minted yet structures and the Real Life buildings that are being developed (and that sit empty) here in Beijing. The difference, however, is that the feeling of isolation and displacement one might experience in Beijing can’t be literalized the way it is in the virtual world of SL – there are just too many people in this town.
Set up for Cao Fei’s iMirror.