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Architecture salutes art
18/4/2005 7:25

Shanghai Daily news

An apartment building under construction is the site of a remarkable exhibition where artists and architects have collaborated ``under the same roof'' to create joint artworks which give new meaning to the concept of space, writes Wang Jie.
Before entering the ``Interval'' exhibition, visitors must not forget to put on a safety helmet because the show is located in a construction site.
When the outdoor elevator carries viewers up through the scaffolding, the scene on the ground below is in ruins with construction workers zooming in and out. Organized by a local property company and the Shanghai Gallery of Art, the show tries to surprise visitors both in its location and concept.
The four art installation pieces inside the unfinished apartments on the fifth, sixth and seventh floors are an amazing collision between architecture and contemporary art.
Wang Jianwei, curator of the event, has invited four architects and four contemporary artists to work in pairs on each installation. Through the interaction between architects and artists, they have retained the overall concept of space while producing their own inter-relationships and the meaning of space becomes transformed from linear connections to synchronized creations.
``The construction site is an ongoing work though its appearance isn't pleasant to the eyes,'' says Wang. ``But there is a kind of uncertainty around the place. It leaves many possibilities while, at the same time, taking some possibilities away.
'' The installations on show are also open to many explanations. Perhaps like a frame in a video tape, they exist temporarily at a certain point which echoes the theme of the show -- ``Interval.''
Stepping into the first room, visitors encounter two different visible worlds. The neon lights in the ceiling or set up on the floor conjure up an evenly disordered message from architect Wu Zhihao while artist Lu Hao uses feathers dyed in red as his symbolic material.
The feathers are sealed off in a see-through space. The stirring of a machine causes the feathers to fly passively inside the space. Lu has also placed cut-off furniture with books and injectors as sharp weapons in the center to penetrate or confront Wu's calmness through a more sensual mode.
``It's not easy to work with architects,'' Lu says. ``Sometimes we had strong conflicts in designing the space. However, I am glad that both of us `survived' finally.''
As the only female architect in this event, Yu Jia gets her arguments across through a ``wall-penetrator'' entrance. Making a visionary journey between illusory and real space, she has reorganized the space conceptually. She imparts to space an imagined sense of oppression by creating a dug-down section.
With a rich experience in theater, Zhang Hui complements Yu's structure with a ritual space by means of video. A frog or fish appearing on the screen at one's feet might puzzle visitors about the reality of this room. Their collaboration is progressive and constantly enhances the notion of sharing space through exchanges of identities and overlapping functions.
In ``You Are on the Wall,'' Wang Luyan and Wang Jiahao have constructed two spaces: one in reality and the other in unreality. When visitors enter the space, they will find that everything in the room, including the coffee table, bed, chairs, cabinets and even lamps, have been reversed through 90 degrees.
``In my fabrication, real scenarios from ordinary life are put on the wall which are actually idolized and admired,'' says Wang Luyan. ``Thanks to this reversal, the former design and the actual environment contradict each other, creating two contrasting spatial judgments in one physical space.''
However, the award for the most daring work in ``Interval'' goes to Wang Hui and He An. ``One Millimeter'' is the basic element in their work. But the ``one millimeter'' may evolve from time to time to knit new space.
He uses ``one millimeter'' as a biological standard -- the height of ants.
He writes messages he has exchanged with his Internet friends in honey. The characters are translated into sweet temptations and thousands of ants have crawled over the writing. The work has become a series of words formed by the bodies of ants.
On this chain of constant inter-translation, there is an invisible ``plot'' which comes from He's reading of Chinese historical stories.
Xiang Yu of the Warring States Period (476-221 BC) was defeated and retreated to the Wujiang River. Looking for boats to cross the river, he suddenly noticed some characters formed by ants on a tree which said that he would be buried right there. Xiang felt that it was his fate, so he cut his throat. In fact, it was his enemy, Liu Bang, who had done the writing with honey.
Sometimes in the work, the ants would crawl in columns to the neighboring net that has been created by Wang Hui out of a one-millimeter wire.
``I even considered filling the room with a certain kind of gas to get the ants drunk so that they would end up crawling to Wang's net,'' He says.
``This event is to provide a platform for creating connections and to explore new methods. In terms of experience with people and disciplines, architects have an advantage over artists because architecture is an art form that is impossible to finish on an individual basis,'' says curator Wang. ``It involves the owner, the developer, the investor, the foreman, the worker and the material supplier. I feel that to engage artists to work within such a network requires them to tackle things from a new perspective.''
Literally speaking, ``Interval'' means to establish a new relationship or conjunction. Artists and architects are ``under the same roof'' where they are able to cooperate or question one another.
``But in a broader sense, it also goes to the very issue of art and society,'' Wang says. ``Can art be known and recognized when it is being shared?''
People at the site may be there to view the exhibition or they may be there to shop for an apartment. However, the familiar sample apartments they see will also expose them to a another dimension: The exhibition-goers may see apartments while the apartment-buyers may catch a glimpse of contemporary art.

Date: through May 31, 10am-5pm
Address: 600 Feihong Rd