Art News

Song Dong: “I Don’t Know the Mandate of Heaven” @ Rockbund Art Museum
The monographic exhibition by leading Chinese artist Song Dong will be the first major survey of Song’s work in Mainland China in eight years. It includes some of the artist’s best-known works that have been fundamental in establishing his career, as well as several rarely exhibited works.
RAM’s entire building is transformed both inside and out for the exhibition, boldly conveying an expression of both Song’s artistic creation to date, as well as taking a fresh look at his current state of creative exploration. The comprehensive exhibition constitutes a reflection on his life and career, which subsumes his past work into a coherent unity, infusing it with a regained sense of vitality, while imbuing his new creations with the richer context of his development.
The title of the exhibition is a fitting reference to Confucius’ famous aphorism in The Analects, “At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning. At thirty, I stood firm. At forty, I had no doubts. At fifty, I knew the mandate of heaven. At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of the truth. At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right”. Song’s own take on the progress of the sage is playfully contradictory. “At 10 I was not worried. At 20, I was not restrained. At 30, I wasn’t established. At 40, I was perplexed,” and, “at 50, I don’t know the mandate of heaven.”
The reference to Confucius accentuates Song’s preoccupations with Chinese tradition and the inherited wisdom of the common people, while the playfulness owes more to the predominance of Zen and Taoist themes in his work. Throughout his career, humble objects from everyday life have formed the core material of his often transformative and elaborate creations. Though the present production is no exception, there is a decidedly classical flavour to the way of its organisation.
Song Dong: “I Don’t Know the Mandate of Heaven” runs from 21 January until 26 March @ Rockbund Art Museum. 20 Huqiu Lu, near Beijing Dong Lu. Tel: 3310 9985. Web: www.rockbundartmuseum.org

Sun Xun: Prediction Laboratory @ Yuz Museum

Sun Xun’s works blur the lines between drawing, painting, animation and installation and incorporate a wide array of techniques, including woodcuts, traditional Chinese ink and charcoal drawings. He keeps inventing new ways to challenge beliefs in ostensible truths and convincing lies, creating surreal stories that can be read as allegories for political events and historic accounts.
Sun’s “Prediction Laboratory” is a select space for investigation and experimentation rather than a straightforward museum exhibition that delivers answers and conclusions. The exhibition starts from a sitespecific painting by the artist at the entrance. Having already completed 21 films, Sun has chosen to share 12 animations on this occasion. Ranging from the artworks, which he made while still a student to the more recent one in 2014, these films convey the artist’s major themes and imagery while working in a wide variety of mediums. Sun has created an all-encompassing environment, with a tunnel of light and sound playing 12 animations simultaneously, leading to a pseudo-laboratory where
scientific experiments may or may not be underway.
In the second part of the exhibition, spectators emerge into a space appropriating the look of a scientist’s study. In the gallery, Sun presents weird taxonomies inspired by natural history museums. For Sun, who believes that history is a lie, science is a lie and art itself is the biggest lie, “Prediction Laboratory” is his most acute analysis of the conventions of knowledge, seeing the artist taking liberties with traditional means for attaining facts. In creating the laboratory, Sun is proposing an alternative modernity, one that questions utopian agendas and the benefits of scientific progress. “Prediction Laboratory” is the summation of a career that the artist has spent challenging official histories and creating alternative narratives.
Sun Xun: Prediction Laboratory runs until 15 January @ Yuz Museum. 35 Fenggu Lu, near Longteng Dadao. Tel: 6210 5207. Web: www.yuzmshanghai.org

Into the Heart of the City: Building the Future Nathalie Perakis-Valat Solo Exhibition @ Art+ Shanghai Gallery
Nathalie Perakis-Valat’s latest works dizzily dive from Shanghai’s highest towers to its lowest foundations, to where it all begins. For Into the Heart of the City: Building the Future, Perakis-Valat met with the men who take part in the never-ending construction of Shanghai in order to collect their stories. Each story is unique, but lost amidst multitudes: a multitude of ever-expanding buildings and the resulting multitude of the construction workers who build them. Singularities that not only help build a city, but also make its heart beat.
Perakis-Valat is a self-taught French photographer who was based in Shanghai until 2015. Since 2010, she has been exploring the city through its ruins and construction sites. Lilong Treasures, a previous work, focused on the ‘mineral’ aspect, capturing the details of walls, construction tarpaulins, metal sheets, creating poetry of the vestiges and sublimates the trivial. It aimed at highlighting aspects that one does not see in an abstract manner through “passive” compositions.
For her new solo exhibition, Perakis-Valat brings a different light to construction sites, focusing on the action of construction itself. Her active approach places the construction worker into the focal centre, rather than the building. She provides testimonials for these men and pays tribute to their efforts, which often remain unknown and obscured. The importance is to highlight their individual story, to neglect the construction itself. Nathalie aims to emphasise and draw attention to these men who live in the shadows of dazzling towers built in their own hands.
 
Into the Heart of the City: Building the Future Nathalie Perakis-Valat Solo Exhibition runs from 8 January until 26 February @ Art+ Shanghai Gallery. 191 Nan Suzhou Lu, near Sichuan Zhong Lu. Tel: 6333 7223. Web: www.artplusshanghai.com