Artists: Ho W. Elaine, Liang Shuo, Qiu Xiaofei, Sun Xun
Curator: Beatrice Leanza
Venue: 140sqm gallery
Date: September 8–October 31, 2009
Opening: September 8, 2009 Tuesday 15:00-19:00
"...all about a kind of door. To envision us approaching and pounding on this door, increasingly hard, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it; we don't know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and ramming and kicking. That, finally, the door opens, and it opens outward - we've been inside what we wanted all along. Das ist komish"
David Foster Wallace
The Shape of Things to Come is an experimental project bringing together four artists and one curator to test the ground of contemporary art in a time 'other than' the present. Conceived in reminiscence of a Wunderkammer, or Cabinet of Curiosity, the exhibition engages the task of exposing the status of artistic objects to scientific self-inspection. It does so by stretching the visual narratives and spatial extents of the creative process past its extinction, into the realm of a possible future. As the Cabinet contained an object-ified reservoir of history, this project deliberately captures itself and the works toward a latent new aesthetic order.
Written in 1933 at the peak of the Great Depression, the novel by H.G.Wells from which this exhibition takes its name provides an account of world history up to 2105; in a disastrous unraveling of ominous predictions towards global collapse, Well's imagination purges the traces of the present with no regret for its oblivious passing away. Adapting an expression from F. Jameson's essay Future City, Wells certainly makes best use of "the secret method of this genre [science-fiction]: which in the absence of a future focuses on a single baleful tendency, one that it expands and expands until the tendency itself becomes apocalyptic and explodes the world in which we are trapped into innumerable shards and atoms".
What then, if we were able to test-drive the deflagration of our aesthetic universe? Manufactured in the conceptual size of a table-game, what parcels of history, relics of the contemporary, would be left as a visual repository of our present times, and in what new semiotic order would they re-awaken so that by way of an exhilarating expansion, stretched between experience and premonition, they'd frame the possibility of a hopeful artistic prophecy beyond its predictable end.
Such is seemingly the quest of the current age. How to jumpstart history?
Can we avoid a critical conflation of artistic paradigms, that is, a totalizing erasure of things past, their identity and difference, and still break through a concrete future?
The project's participants use the site and economics of the exhibition to play out such a fantastic threat.
As in a Memory Theatre where timelines are confused and overlapping in an associative map of symbols and places, this show wishes to expose the processes of observation constitutive of the works presented, that is the aesthetic strategies subtending new conceptual trajectories of research in the space of the local and its hidden, uncontrollable forms of dialogue with the present.
By activating memory and recollection into a continuous revision of what dwells between visibility and invisibility, they subtly reveal the organizational structures we employ to discern the truth of things and the material phenomena which help us making sense of our time, space and position within it.
Somehow between wonder and belief, the natural and the man-made, there appears the resemblance of a common present. Out of this partial, ambivalent, unaesthetic sense of belonging we can always re-form the shape of things to come.
Site-specifically devised for the 140sqm Gallery, The Shape of Things to Come presents a series of interlocking installations and textual interventions where boundaries continue to be tested and stripped down. Some of the leftovers have already made it somewhere into this text.
The invitation and visual identity produced for the exhibition are part of Elaine W. Ho's contribution to the show, and a 'tool' complementary to her installation in the gallery.
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