By Day By Night 日以继夜，或美术馆可为之若干事
2010年 10月 25日 – 2011年 1月 3日
The creation of the Rockbund Art Museum indicates a revival, or, a renaissance, of an important institution with a turbulent history in an energetic pursuit to embrace a brilliant future. From its earlier days as the RAS building and “Shanghai Museum,” to its opening as a Public Library, and now re-emerging as an contemporary art museum, the establishment has always been a major site of testimony to and memory of the city’s eventual composition, from its colonial past to the current process of modernization via communist revolution. This complex and often perplexing history has made Shanghai a world legend, and one of the most dynamic, thrilling, and promising of global cities. While toiling in hard negotiations, in double binds, in a deeply contradictory identity as a cultural and political hybrid, in the meantime Shanghai provokes so many fantasies and dreams. In spite of all of the complications, amongst the population there is always an irreducible optimism and confidence that drives the city forward. This renders the metropolis with a most spectacular urban-scape. Further, it is a city where life never stops: in the day, Shanghai is an enterprising center of economic and urban activities, accentuated by the uproaring noise of traffic, machines, and commerce. In the night, the streets are then invaded by the most electrifying symphony of all kinds of sounds that mix the night market hubbub with popular karaoke outcries — between hidden dark corners and dazzling neon lights, the city is turned into a paradise for leisure, culture and pleasure, with a flair of seduction, dream and fleur-du-mal style of poesy and adventure…
Shanghai is also a unique site for contemporary art production. The art world there has been an avant-garde in the developments of Chinese modern and contemporary art, while growing intertwiningly with the city’s extraordinary history. Artists’ projects have long been integral to processes of urban expansion and of opening up towards the rest of the world. Actually, the Shanghai art world could even been considered as the most outstanding representation of the city’s development over time. Different from most of the “avant-garde” movements in China that biases towards collective claims and struggles, the artists in Shanghai have formed a tradition that privileges individuality and self-reflection. Independence and singularity are emphasized as the superior way to freedom of imagination and expression. Criticality, however, has never been in lack. It is found in almost all art production. Instead of artists being over-passionate and confrontational, most choose to express their views on both reality and inner-life with distance, transcendence and also with a great degree of humour, irony and playfulness. They are radically urbane. They not only claim for freedom in images and words, but also embody it in their body language and everyday acts…
It is with optimism and self-confidence that artists respond to a strange and quasi-grotesque fusion of consumerism and political control—the symptomatic reality of our globalized world today, incarnated so perfectly by China, and in particular Shanghai—that has become a crucial challenge to Shanghai’s art scene. Shanghai welcomes a wave of museum boom and art market growth, as seen in the foundation and maturation of institutions like the Shanghai Biennial, as it provides unique conditions for artistic and cultural production. Artists from the city and the country are not only encouraged to develop more experimental works, but the entire international art world is also beckoned to this site of research, discussion and production that is still rapidly flourishing. The opening of Rockbund Art Museum is the latest effort to keep the city on the global map of artistic production.
In this context, I propose to curate a project entitled, By Day, By Night, or some (special) things a museum can do.
Nine artists who are among the most active in both Chinese and international art worlds today are invited to Shanghai to study, research and explore the histories and realities of both the city and of the Rockbund Art Museum. Most of them will arrive to then spend two to three weeks in a residency (organized by the museum) to produce site-specific projects for the exhibition. During this time, the artists may give lectures and run workshops, as well as carry out other activities, in order to establish exchanges and collaborations with the local art community and the larger public. Likewise, local art organizations will be invited to make specific contributions to the project’s events.
The exhibition structure entails two distinct but intertwined components that create an intimate and efficient relationship amongst the artists, the works, the events, the institution, the participants, and the realities of Shanghai’s city life. The exhibition, or the event, is to unfold throughout the daytime and into the nighttime, with constant surprises.
During the day, a more materialized aspect of artistic and intellectual productions will be exposed in the site, where the public can experience a certain visible set of recollections around the dynamic and spectacular urban development and the material growth of the modernization process. This will appear as a more stable and tangible format of an “exhibition”…
In the night, all of these abiding and solid forms gradually soften. Objects lose their materiality and dissolve into fluid and uneasily graspable flux and “ether”… The exhibition will be intruded upon and even replaced by more flexible and interactive occurrences that, on the one hand, reveal things that are usually hidden or ignored by the busy and bright daytime activities, and on the other, invite the public’s participation in the most relaxed of ways. This is an invitation to the city and its population to enjoy something remarkably other than what is encountered in both day-to-day life and during ordinary night entertainments. Artists will initiate all kinds of performances — from lectures to concerts — while a film festival is planned to feature selected favorite inspirations of the participating artists. A night school proposed by several local educational organizations, will present lectures, workshops, symposiums and other activities, and open itself as a platform for professionals of various disciplines.
The project intends to compose an event that functions, to some extent, in the same rhythm as the real life of this non-stop city itself. By turning into an articulated space and time of city life, By Day, By Night, or some (special) things a museum can do strives to become an integrate and even intimate part of urban society. This is where one can find the genuine relevance and coherence of the museum’s undertaking. Ultimately, this helps the newly reborn Rockbund Art Museum define its mission and its functions in the early stage of an ambitious plan through which the art space can eventually become an original institution for contemporary art and culture in Shanghai. This uniqueness, at first, can be discovered in the conceptual expansion of both the exhibition and the museum as being primarily recognized by their conventional devices of collection, representation and dissemination of existing art works, to a site of conception, production and new presentation of the works that offer opportunities for public participation and dialogue between the art world and society.