“Quote out of Context,” solo exhibition of Yang Fudong
OCT Suhe Creek Gallery (1016 Bei Suzhou Lu, near Wen’an Lu, Zhabei district, Shanghai). Sep 30, 2012–Jan 3, 2013
Suzhou Creek is a stretch of Shanghai suffused with the city’s and the nation’s history of industrial and commercial advancement. It has seen soaring real estate prices in the last few years of make-believe, devouring old city life in the laneways, while upscale residential skyrises have smothered the city’s old excitement But pockets remain. In a China Industrial Bank warehouse from 1930, a treasure of bygone years and newly renovated, OCT Suhe Creek Gallery has just opened.
“Quote out of Context: Solo Exhibition of Yang Fudong” is the first post-opening exhibition. Both OCT’s exhibition halls and Yang Fudong’s works all appeal to our nostalgic longing. The renowned Chinese contemporary video artist has turned this eighty-year-old warehouse into a halfway station between the past and future. Yang frequently brings a refined aesthetic approach to the shooting of ordinary scenes, and his works are filled with poetic sentiments, dreamlike scenes, and characters wallowing in their own worlds — not to mention every mountain peak and every tree imbued with history.
More than fifty artworks trace Yang Fudong’s twenty years of artistic endeavor. They include his early performance art, personal notes to “Farewell to Heaven”; the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove,” often quoted as reflecting on the “Chineseness” of Chinese contemporary art; and his recent work “The Nightman Cometh” where his narrative has tended towards an increasingly blurry state. It is said that this serves as Yang Fudong’s retrospective exhibition. It is better, perhaps, to see it as the dialogue between Yang Fudong’s artwork and the old space of the new OCT Contemporary Art Terminal. The many fortuitous inspirations that Yang Fudong finds in the building form an understanding of the meaning of life through “quoting out of context.”
Standing within the OCT exhibition hall, one cannot escape the beautiful Ingresque women lost in thought next to the swimming pool of the International Hotel. Who is she? What is she thinking? Why is she sitting there? By seriously making a big fuss about the contestants of a beauty contest, Yang Fudong has restored “a boring Sunday afternoon at the International Hotel swimming pool,” just as Susan Sontag says video art is always in search of a new way to depict otherwise boring things . But boredom is just the reverse of fascination and these are exactly the sentiments of the moments carefully depicted in Yang Fudong’s art.
In contrast to the broken piece of brick clenched in one hand, with the helplessness and dire straits of the first intellectual with a bleeding scalp, in ten years, Yang Fudong has gone from a caring but limp petit-bourgeois to a more and more of a storyteller with unique skills who reveals only half of the story. The life grasped in his hands continues to be seemingly anodyne and dull, but with his extraordinary skills Yang transforms it into something truly fascinating, all the while the other half of the story remains for the audience to listen enraptured to the storyteller.
 Susan Sontang, On Photography, Penguin Books, 42.