Sino-Scottish collaboration in the spotlight despite the pandemic
As if life hadn’t been hard enough for an artist or gallery attempting to mount an exhibition over the past year, the struggle has intensified for Sophia Hao, curator at Dundee’s Cooper Gallery, and the three internationally renowned artists engaged in the fourth phase of the current program.
The effort, in this case, was to produce an exhibit to be shown in Shenzhen, China, while those responsible remained in the UK.
Hao is based in Dundee, where the Cooper Gallery is the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design’s in-house contemporary art gallery, while the artists are spread across the UK.
In fact, the Glasgow-trained and Turner Prize nominated duo Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer live in London and the Isle of Lewis respectively, so even the coordination between them and the latter’s lack of WiFi signal was a major effort, says Hao.
The couple created one work together, while Glasgow-based artist Corin Sworn directed the other major piece, a film installation within a specially created structure called Habits of Assembly II, which is accompanied by a specially exhibited art book publication titled Folding Vesuvius.
âWe actually did the installation (of the work in the Shenzhen OCAT gallery) online via Zoom, which was quite interesting,â Hao says, with some understatement.
âCorin was directing the OCAT curatorial assistant where to place the publication, as that is also part of the installation. Even doing thatâ¦ “Can you zoom in a bit?” Can I rotate this image to your left? No actually, right?
âDoing this for hours, all these misunderstandings and communication problems – it’s a lot of fun, but back then it was torture. It’s quite interesting to show, however, how we might be pushed into this situation as humans, especially thinking about Corin’s work.
JÃ©rÃ©my’s work, says Hao, fits well with Shenzhen, âthe city of the futureâ, transformed over decades from a small fishing village into an industrial metropolis.
Lately, without traveling, I became aware of the studio as a strange semi-virtual architecture, where things are made to appear elsewhere.
âCorin’s work reflects on how complex management systems expect us to behave, and how humans can find different tactics to deal with those expectations,â Hao explains.
“Even the idea of ââvirtue or ethics, they come up in this (discussion) of the management system, and a sense of how we discipline ourselves and aspire to efficiency as a virtue.”
Sworn provided a statement on his work and experience prior to the opening of the exhibition, which reads: âLately, while not traveling, I have come to realize the studio as a strange semi-virtual architecture, where things are made to appear elsewhere.
âMy work at OCAT is currently being put together, built from maps sent, writings collected and email conversationsâ¦ We are all in different cities and the fact that together we can make it appear something solid miles away from where it was first imagined amazes me. “
Nashashibi and Skaer, meanwhile, adapted their existing film Lamb with added animation in the new work Bear, providing the basis for a multi-part exhibition named Chimera.
âProject Current has taken a lot of twists and turns over the years and we’ve always been interested in the influence of location on our work,â the couple said, also in a written statement. âThe travel possibilities were gone, but we were able to work closely with some very inspiring Chinese artists and a host in Scotland.
A pandemic production of the year
âBear is truly a Pandemic Production of the Year, shot during the first lockdown and then animated partly with hand-drawn images, frame-by-frameâ¦ directly on the surface of the film, and partly with digital animation made in collaboration with RÃ©gina Ohak.
âIt’s a film about change and transformation, enriched by the soundtrack composed and sung for us by opera singer Zhuo Peili.
âBy incorporating Chinese words and traditional style into the song, we hope the film resonates with audiences as well as being a broader reflection on the language and naming of animals. A sort of âbestiaryâ of today.
âWe also had the privilege of working with printer Xu Zhiwei on a new poster to accompany the film, printed using traditional Chinese woodcuts.
On politics, society and art
âIn the Cooper Gallery program, we really look at the political and social discourses around contemporary art,â says Hao, who saw the first edition of Current unveiled in Shanghai in 2015.
The Chinese title of the exhibition is not a direct translation of “Current” – it means “untimely,” a play on Hao’s belief that “contemporary” art depends on the culture and social context that surrounds it. surrounded.
âBy placing the interpretation of the Scottish artist, and the reflection on the idea of ââthe contemporary, in China – even this gesture itself can trigger a lot of reflections on this particular moment.