Trade Resources Culture & Life Art Openings: Korakrit Arunanondchai and Tao Hui at UCCA

Art Openings: Korakrit Arunanondchai and Tao Hui at UCCA

Art Openings: Korakrit Arunanondchai and Tao Hui at UCCA

Two new exhibits offer a perfect way for visitors in Beijing to see the point where the vibrant local art scene and the international art world intersect. Artists Tao Hui and Korakrit Arunanondchai shared a joint opening at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Arts yesterday. The two artists' works offer a number of parallels of theme and execution.

Arunanondchai's work occupies the gallery's central gallery with his sprawling installation Arunanondchai: 2558. Viewers walk through the installation which is filled with mangled mannequins, artist-made videos, and detritus. Jenny Holzer-esque text excerpts from his videos emblazon the walls. Acid-wash denim is a motif featured throughout the exhibition: its scorched remains dangle upon the backdrops and adorns some mannequins. Splattered with paint, it even  acts as the exhibit floor. At yesterday's press conference, Arunanondchai explained that denim is a material from the west, that through globalization has come to represent everything from youthful rebellion to affluence.

In the installation, Arunanondchai hammered away at his theme of Naga (a mythical serpent creature believed to live in the Mekong River) versus Garuda (a winged hindu God with the body of a man). At their most literal, an Asian Arowana (aka dragonfish), slowly swims in a tank, while a creature made from drone parts and other mechanical scraps perches menacingly from above.

But Naga and Garuda are also symbolized by air, fire and water. Drone footage features heavily in the video 2558, and drones themselves sometimes appear, hovering like an angel before Wat Rong Khun temple. The video itself mashes together elements of MTV, Thai spirituality and culture, and the art-making process. Arunanondchai himself is the star of the show (he later did a rap performance, evening of the opening), and self-awareness of himself and his art-making process is a constant. 

The work wonderfully embraces contradictions between ancient and contemporary culture, high and low art. Paint and industrial garbage seem to be applied brutally, while other parts are meticulously assembled and embrace technology's delicate inner workings. But for Arunanondchai, hopefully something in-between can be found, as he insists this "in-between space" is at the core of his art practice.

Tao Hui's work video-focused work works are at once personal and close, yet vast and barren.  Excessive is a narrative-driven piece that follows a family's psychological conflicts stemming from the daughter's extra finger. In the end, the daughter recognizes the suffering of her mother and thus cuts the finger off. The emotions are raw, but the Tao has set the characters and story in a void of white. A partner piece shows the severed digit, smoldering in a holographic flame.

The piece The Acting Tutorial shows a group of women following their instructor through a series of acting exercises, each one involving physical or emotional suffering. Again, Tao adds a layer of distance by placing the group in a blank set, grey and gloomy. In addition the camera and boom operators are not hidden from view, raising questions about art and artifice as women grimace and shriek out in pain.

In 1 Character & 7 Materials, Tao's vision is more abstract. A rural woman describes her burdensome life story, while the images on the screen play out disjointed scenes such as a reporter attempting to interview a motionless body at a traffic accident, or a man dressed as an ancient God, driving a motorboat.

"I believe in something in the middle," commented Tao at the press conference. "Never be too extreme. No extreme sadness nor extreme happiness. Likewise, I want my work to be not too real nor too fake. If it becomes too real, I’ll change it to make it less so."

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