Xiao Yu: BB
Pace Hong Kong(15C Entertainment Building, 30 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong), Mar 26, 2019 – May 11, 2019
by Di Liu Translated by Liang Shuhan
Chinese artist Xiao Yu’s first solo show at Pace Gallery Hong Kong is a small and pensive one. Featuring five bamboo-like sculptures and three video works that magnify the intricate characteristics of bamboos, this exhibition is a continuation of the artist’s past sculpture practice and the exploration of his inner world.
Since 2011, Xiao Yu has been adopting bamboos in making sculptures. In this exhibition, Xiao Yu employs the medium of bronze in an effort to break away from the physical constraints of bamboos so as to attain previously unachievable postures. These bronze sculptures retain the visual appearance of bamboos while being able to mark dynamic and fluid lines that are reminiscent of Chinese calligraphic brushstroke.
Furthermore, the adoption of bronze, a highly representative material in classical Western art history, may constitute a subversion of the symbolic meanings of bamboos in traditional Chinese literati culture.
However, in the interview with the author on the opening day of the exhibition, the artist, renowned as one of the most important conceptual artists in China, held a clear view against the phenomenon of over-interpretation, storytelling and the mystification of the role of artists in the contemporary art world. ‘Artists should not take themselves too seriously. Art is not a competition for telling stories.’ Xiao Yu repeatedly said.
Such view is also reflected in the title of this exhibition ‘BB’. On the title, the artist explained that he came up with the word ‘BB’, because it is a simple word, just like the word ‘Dada’; it can have many meanings – a baby, an electronic sound, or nonsense talk, but it does not mean anything specific, and is open to interpretation. This is exactly what the artist would like audience to do – rather than absorb the meanings imposed by artists, they can freely engage themselves in the dialogues with artworks, even though the artworks are abstract.
The artist also mentioned that he does not like the practice of ‘touch a stone and turn it into gold’ (点石成金) which is sometimes deemed equivalent to conceptual art, while believing in that art should be critical and be able to transcend materials, time and history.
A conceptual artist who is tired of ‘conceptual art’? Xiao Yu may not be alone. As the cluster of meanings fades away in the monumentality and materiality of his works, Xiao Yu has embarked on an ambitious and yet perplexing task of ‘de-interpretation’ in contemporary art. At the end of the day, one question looms over the silhouette of bamboos: without interpretation, what remains of conceptual art?