Upcoming | Archiving the Spaces of Anxiety

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Upcoming | Archiving the Spaces of Anxiety  OCAT研究中心 Upcoming Curator Gedin Wei Shuo Lina Institute December Research exhibition 崇真艺客

Archiving the Spaces of Anxiety: 

From the Burrow to the Peach Colony


Opening: 2020.12.19 15:00-17:00

Duration: 2020.12.19—2021.03.28

Curator: Chen Shuyu

Artists: Andreas Gedin, Hu Wei, PaperTiger Studio, Liang Shuo, Lina Selander, Maj Hasager

Address: OCAT Institute, Beijing

OCAT Institute is pleased to announce the opening of the exhibition “Archiving the Spaces of Anxiety: From the Burrow to the Peach Colony” on December 19, 2020 at 3:00 pm. As an execution of the winning proposal of OCAT’s inaugural “2019 Research-Based Curatorial Project”, the exhibition remains on view till March 28, 2021.
As a curator with architectural background, the exhibition “Archiving the Spaces of Anxiety: From the Burrow to the Peach Colony” is a public presentation of Chen Shuyu's perspective on spatial theory, design criticism, and material culture.
This is the first solo exhibition held in the entire exhibition hall after the space reforming of OCAT Institute, Beijing. Based on the specific site the curator takes anxiety as the gateway to the realm of idealism, establishing a location, relationship, and context for the special concept explored in each artwork, and cast light on how space and body mutually construct each other in history and reality.

From the Curator:


When an exhibition begins, it’s better for the curators to stop narrating themselves. Because he/she should have completed the mission from narration to transformation, and leaves the site to the public. However, it is the curators' duty to interpret. Allow me to take this obligation to talk about the responsibility of the exhibition before it opens — I believe besides interpretation, the most important work for an curator is to transform, that is, together with the artists and the art institution, the curator shall transform all kinds of forces, relationships, and elements that gather around and within a project into the experiences on site.  A Space in a space is a very important but also very fascinating awareness in our daily life, is something we could transform as an idea for curating, which I call it curatorial spatiality. And to my understanding, curating achieves spatiality by sensory means, and exhibition is about the invisible essence of artworks. Therefore, curating is about how we construct the exhibition space, using the physical artwork to accommodate the "invisible" parts. For me, this is both the meaning, as well as the starting of making an exhibition.
From another perspective, an exhibition, an artwork, is often built on particular readings, but certainly not the most obvious one. Otherwise, we would not be able to make an unusual or undetectable presence visible. This reminds me that the title of an exhibition is also a particular reading of the exhibition itself. And the title, like the theory on which a curatorial framework tries to rely, is often half inspiration, half limitation.
Perhaps, I should explain the title’s pitfalls of this exhibition again before the opening.
In The Burrow, Kafka started the story as if it were an ending, "I have completed the construction of my burrow and it seems to be successful." The entire story is about his unnamed rational creature’s endless self-reflection on its relation with the burrow which was built all on its own—a seemingly completed and perfect artificial system. The anxiety from deep inside drives the body unceasingly to expand and to reinforce the burrow. It is not only the owner but also the slave of the burrow, vainly grabs the sense of security in the midst of monitoring and self-monitoring. I don't think Kafka really intended to finish this short story, because it is another dead-end cave, in addition to Plato's cave, that Kafka built for modern mane. It is surely a "Kafkaesque" closure to stop the story suddenly in the midst of the hallucinations of this rational creature, at the moment when "everything goes back to the beginning”.
And The Peach Colony, which is about a reclusive ancient scholar, with the romantic spirit of the Wei and Jin dynasties, made a lost fisherman leave reality and find a burrow as a gateway to enter the paradise ("The Peach Colony"). As "the Other", he enters the self-governing place where people live in harmony with nature, hospitably treated by those locals, and has some ambiguous conversations with them. "The Peach Colony" is a place without location, and a panorama glimmering soft light. In a perfect form, it projects all the relationships in the reality. This is precisely the "heterotopia" that Foucault proposed in the 1960s, a place in the mirror and a realized Utopia, which takes the space as a metaphor in which language finds its ways for leaping and connecting. As an imaginary world outside the burrow, "The Peach Colony" intersects and contests with the real world outside Plato's cave. However, the lost fisherman, just like the prisoner accidentally unbounded in Plato's cave, could only paint another phantom or another narrative on the wall of consciousness, waiting for echoes from the future generations, but never will be able to lead the other prisoners out. And one of those echoes, for instance, is the Christian-influenced painter Wu Li in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, who added a monument to the entrance of the Peach Colony on his painting, and established a spatial relationship between reality and illusion in the context of his own time.
As a result, in "Archiving the Spaces of Anxiety", the transition from "Burrow" to "Peach Colony" is a transitional path in our imagination, and an endless Möbius strip. But it is definitly not the only way to understand the exhibition. Actually, the whole curatorial work is to construct an "archival space" in collaboration with the artists I have invited to research and to practice around different concepts related to space; to create a multifaceted dialogue between the internal and external, here and there, front and back, of mirrors, labyrinths, folding screens, balconies, which can all be considered as both spatial objects and concepts. In this "heterotopic" exhibition, where "archives of space" and "space of archives" are both objects and places for each other, we will leave the fun of walking through to the viewers, invite them to experience, to find the space within spaces, and to join the endless conversation.
There is a linguistic mismatch between the English and Chinese titles of the exhibition. It is true that I could not find a word in Chinese corresponding to the word "archiving" to express the process of moving through, collecting, opening, and rewriting in different spaces and archives. It is only possible to leave the rhetoric of "anxiety" in the Chinese title to slightly obscure the boundary between space and archives. Perhaps, for me, there does exist a certain junction between space and archives. Perhaps it is exactly the anxiety that drives us to leave the "central" position of each other, to grope, perceive, and to act between space and archives. Therefore, the characteristic chaotic Chinese rhetoric, to some extent, is polishing against the grain to the grammatically correct English title "Archiving the Spaces of Anxiety".
Finally, I'd like to use the cutest words we use when posting opening announcements on WeChat platform, "Welcome to have fun". If the exhibition is not fun enough, I would very much like to recommend you to walk around the area of Happy Valley nearby, since you might already have taken an effort to cross the city to visit this exhibition. The spectacle embedded in the daily life here is nothing new, but try to find some dialogue with it after you have gone through the burrow and the peach colony in this exhibition. 

Welcome, and welcome back. 

Upcoming | Archiving the Spaces of Anxiety  OCAT研究中心 Upcoming Curator Gedin Wei Shuo Lina Institute December Research exhibition 崇真艺客

About the Curator

Chen Shuyu  

Currently lives in Sweden, working as a curator and has been involved in exhibitions and art projects since 2009. I believe the scope of curating is expanding today, and has been continuously producing knowledge. What interests me is the question of how we deepen and enrich our understanding of the world and of ourselves through curating.

About OCAT Institute
OCAT Institute is a non-profit research organization dedicated to the history of art and its related discourses. It was established by OCAT in Beijing and is a member of the OCAT Museums. The Institute has three main focuses: publication, archive, and exhibition. Its research scope encompasses art from antiquity, modern and contemporary Chinese art, and specifically investigates artists, artworks, schools of art production, exhibitions, art discourses, as well as art institutions, publications, and other aspects of art’s overall ecology. It supports library and archive collecting and the facilitation of dialogue and exchange between China and abroad. It is also an exhibition space of the OCAT Museums in Beijing.
OCAT Institute aims to establish a paradigm of values, a system of academic investigation, and modes of applying historical research methodologies to modern and contemporary Chinese art. Its scholarly values lie in knowledge, reflection, and research. Drawing from scholarly research traditions and the open spirit of such research, OCAT Institute bridges contemporary Chinese art history with the history of mind, history of ideas, history of thought, and history of visual culture. It also focuses on the translation and publication of classical art historical writing, and the reconciliation between modern and contemporary art history and classical art history.
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