e-flux | 311 East Broadway
Curated by Cosmin Costinas, Doryun Chong
Taiping Tianguo explores actual and concrete, as well as tenuous or even possibly non-existing connections between four artists in New York in the heady years of the 1980s and the early 1990s. In recent years, Ai Weiwei, Frog King Kwok, Tehching Hsieh, and Martin Wong have come to prominence in different ways. While they are all of Chinese heritage, they hailed from different places, contexts, and lineages, and have been situated in wildly divergent art historical narratives and discursive matrices. Ai came from Mainland China, Hsieh from Taiwan, Kwok from Hong Kong, and Wong from San Francisco. All of them arrived in New York between the late 1970s and the early ’80s. After living and working in the city until the early 1990s, Ai, Kwok, and Wong returned to their respective homelands, while Hsieh continues to live in New York. Wong died in 1999. The exhibition began as a series of questions: How did these four artists end up in New York in the 1980s and early 1990s? Did they know one another? What new lessons might we learn about the storied time and place of art history, and also about the divergent practices of these figures—well known in their respective contexts—by considering their work together?
Thanks to existing documentation and remembrances, certain connections between the four artists were clear from the beginning of the inquiry. For instance, Hsieh appears in Ai’s photographs from his time in New York, along with many other Chinese future cultural luminaries, such as artist Xu Bing, filmmaker Chen Kaige, and composer Tan Dun. Kwok provided critical assistance for Hsieh for some of the latter’s legendary One Year Performances, and became acquainted with Wong and Ai, who were friends themselves, at KWOK Gallery, a space he owned and ran for a time in SoHo. For all four artists, New York in the ’80s and early ’90s represented a time-space filled with freedom and possibilities that incubated their artistic visions and imaginations. By excavating and reestablishing their connections, this exhibition ventures an alternative narrative to those that disregard these artists’ personal connections in favor of city- or nation-specific, or formalist histories. A casual community, a network of acquaintances, and an underground economy, the exhibition suggests, were as crucial in sustaining the lives of these then little-known artists as they were in shaping their burgeoning artistic practices. By strengthening this narrative, the exhibition also hopes to contribute to a critical understanding of this time period, which also marked the first decade of contemporary Chinese art, and the prelude to the era of globalized contemporary art.
“Taiping Tianguo” (Heavely Kingdom of Eternal Peace) was the name of the domain established in southern China by the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-nineteenth century. Wong used the name as the inspiration for a now-lost painting, and it was in turn proposed as the title of a posthumous exhibition of his work. Borrowed by the present exhibition, the title serves as a metaphor for the New York of the 1980s and early 1990s—a crucial place and time for the lives and works of the four artists in the exhibition. In addition to selected works by four artists and related archival materials, this presentation at e-flux will include re-creations of historical installations by Kwok as well as guided tours of downtown by New York-based artists, writers, and curators.
太平天國/Taiping Tianguo, A History of Possible Encounters: Ai Weiwei, Frog King Kwok, Tehching Hsieh, and Martin Wong in New York was first shown at Para Site, Hong Kong, from May to August 2012. It subsequently traveled to SALT Beyoğlu, Istanbul, and National University Singapore Museum. The project is co-organized by the curatorial initiative, A Future Museum for China, and Para Site, Hong Kong.
Curated by Cosmin Costinas and Doryun Chong
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策划人：Cosmin Costinas and Doryun Chong
太平天国展览是探究四位艺术家在纽约八十年代和九十年代初那段振奋人心的岁月里的实际存在的，微不足道的和甚至可能不存在的联系。近几年来，艾未未，蛙王郭孟浩，谢德庆和Martin Wong都各自以不同的方式成名成就。虽然都是有着中国血统，但他们却来自不同的地方，有着不同的血缘和背景，并受到过非常不同的历史文化熏陶。艾来自中国大陆，谢来自台湾，郭来自香港，Wong来自旧金山。 他们都先后于七十年代末至八十年代初来到纽约生活和工作。直到九十年代初，艾，郭和Wong都各自离开纽约回了到自己的家乡，而谢继续留在了纽约。Wong于一九九九年逝去。此展览是由一系列问题引出的：这四位艺术家是怎么在八十年代到九十年代初同一时期都来到纽约的？他们互相认识吗？ 把这四位在自己领域各有所成的艺术家的作品联系在一起思考，我们可以学到关于艺术史上这个充满故事的时间与地点的怎样的一课？
根据现有的资料和记忆，这四位艺术家之间的联系从探究一开始就是很清楚的。比如，谢在纽约的时候就和其他很多未来的中国文化名人比如电影人陈凯歌，作曲家谭盾出现在艾的胶片里。郭为谢之后的传奇”一年表演”提供了重要的帮助，并在他当时位于SoHo开办的画廊里结识了Wong和艾这对朋友。对这四位艺术家来说，八十年代和九十年代初的纽约代表了一个充满自由和可能的时空，孕育了他们的艺术梦想和想像。此次展览试图通过挖掘和重建这些人际关系，向那些倾向于地域和形式主义历史而忽略这些人际关系的人讲述一段不一样的历史故事。一个普通的群体，一个熟人的关系网，一个地下的经济体系，这些对于当时并不知名的艺术家们来说，既维持了他们的生计，也深深的影响了他们的新兴发展与艺术实践。这一时期标志了中国当代艺 术的 十年，同时也为全球化的当代艺术作出了序曲。此次展览同时希望能通过强化这段故事为这一历史时期提供一个重要的理解和认识。
太平天国，一段关于他们在纽约偶遇的历史：艾未未，蛙王郭孟浩，谢德庆和Martin Wong，第一次于二零一二年五月至八月在香港Para Site艺术空间展出，随后在伊斯坦堡的SALT Beyoğlu和新加坡国立大学博物馆展出。此项目的协办单位是A Future Museum for China中国未来博物馆和Para Site香港艺术空间。
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